n Sunday, passengers abroad an Air New Zealand flight headed for Shanghai were baffled when the plane suddenly turned back around to Auckland after more than four hours in the air. The apparent cause for this unusual flight path? What else but Taiwan.
As ludicrous as it may sound, multiple sources have told Stuff.co.nz that the reason the Boeing 787-9 was forced to make a mid-flight U-turn was politically problematic paperwork that included a reference to Taiwan “which China took to be acknowledgment [from Air NZ] that the island was independent.”
In 2018, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) infamously sent out notices to dozens of foreign airlines, warning them to remove any reference on their websites or in other promotional materials which suggested that Taiwan is country separate from China or else face the consequences.
The CAAC never actually spelled out exactly what these consequences would be but have now apparently given an example. Sources told Stuff that Chinese officials had told Air NZ to remove any Taiwan references from its paperwork last year, but “someone forgot to do so.”
Last November, the airline began flying between Auckland and Taipei. The Dreamliner that was forced to turn back had last flown to Taipei in January. This was its first flight to the Chinese mainland. The plane was in the air for 4.5 hours before turning around. Passengers were told that the aircraft “did not have regulatory approval to land in the Chinese mainland.”
Air NZ’s problems would appear to be purely about official paperwork as its website includes no references to Taiwan’s sovereignty. Additionally, when looking through flight options on the site, only city names are listed without any mention of country.