Woman dies on Air New Zealand flight on arrival in Samoa

Flight NZ289 carrying about 270 passengers left Auckland shortly before midnight yesterday only to return about 10am today. — Reuters pic

"As is required, the application includes a list of destinations the airline operates to, including Taipei", Air New Zealand said, without elaborating.

The problem related to documentation from New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority which was included as part of Air New Zealand's application to allow the particular plane to land in China. The plane, which has not yet been confirmed, returned to Auckland about five hours after it took off and that it did not have permission from the Chinese authorities to land.

"Tourism is very important to New Zealand, but so is trade and our worldwide relationship - I think that it's very concerning that Jacinda Ardern is the first elected Prime Minister not to visit China within the first year in office since before Robert Muldoon, that in itself speaks volumes".

In mid-2018, Qantas bowed to pressure from China to refer to Taiwan as a "territory" rather than a country on its website, the ABC reported.

Air New Zealand did not immediately respond to further questions on the incident.

New Zealand's national carrier admitted a registration mistake turned back a flight to China over the weekend, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to say Monday that politics were not involved.

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The airline said on Monday that China denied the plane landing permission due to an administrative error.

Ardern is left trotting out the line that this is a scheduling issue, and the only thing keeping her from an official visit is scheduling clashes.

The same flight, NZ289, was turned back on a flight to China on August 24 past year, although an airline spokeswoman said that was due to an engineering issue, not a permitting one.

"It gets into the political situation and the way the different governments recognise or don't recognise states, and I would think Air New Zealand would be guided very much by what the New Zealand government position is ... therefore look at it in context of the New Zealand government's relationship with China".

Relations between the two countries have become increasingly strained in recent months, following a recommendation from New Zealand's spy agency that the roll-out of 5G by Huawei posed "significant national security risks".

Although Air NZ quickly acknowledged an unspecified "administrative issue", the highly unusual decision to return to Auckland when the plane was already well on the way meant questions were inevitably aimed at the Beehive.

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