Registration mistake turned back New Zealand flight to China

Passengers were awoken mid-flight by the pilot announcing Chinese authorities had not given the plane permission to land

An Air New Zealand flight bound for Shanghai was turned back because of an "administrative issue" and the incident holds no political implications for ties with China, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday. China's Communist Party regards the island as its territory to be taken by force if necessary.

The unorthodox incident has prompted speculation the issue with the plane's paperwork was due to an error in the airline referring to the city of Taipei as the capital of Taiwan rather than a city in China.

Air New Zealand apologized for the inconvenience experienced by its customers and was "deeply disappointed and frustrated by the situation", reported AP.

That followed a defense policy statement in July, in which New Zealand said China's rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, and alluded to tension in the disputed South China Sea, sparking complaint from China.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Air New Zealand for comment. DPA added that that the aircraft returned to Auckland about five hours after taking off and did not have permission from the Chinese authorities to land.

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The death on the Air New Zealand flight comes close to two months after a passenger also died on a Samoa Airways flight from Auckland to Samoa.

China has a history of demanding worldwide airlines not refer to Taiwan's independence or nationhood on its websites or promotional material, and in the past has urged Qantas, Air Canada and others to change how it refers to the island.

Earlier on Sunday, Eric Hundman, an assistant professor at New York University Shanghai, who was on the diverted flight, shared the apology message he received from the airline, confirming Ardern's assertion.

'A technicality meant the particular aircraft operating this service did not have Chinese regulatory authority to land in China'. "We need to know what has happened here. But they (China) remain an incredibly important economic and people-to-people partner", she stressed, citing the ongoing exhibition of China's famed Terracotta Warriors at the National Museum of New Zealand as a sign of strong ties. "Look, there are no questions speaking more broadly... that our relationship with China is a complex relationship".

She said yesterday it was likely that although the airline would have filed for an aircraft to land, a different aircraft was suddenly listed to land on the other side - something Chinese authorities would not have accepted.

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