Qantas passengers stuck at military base

The Qantas passengers on board the stranded QF171 flight at Ohakea military base . Photo: Supplied
The Qantas passengers on board the stranded QF171 flight at Ohakea military base . Photo: Supplied
Qantas passengers have been stuck on the Ohakea military base tarmac for hours in sweltering cabin temperatures, after their flight from Melbourne to Wellington was diverted.

Qantas flight QF171, a Boeing 737, was diverted to the Ohakea RNZAF air base, 140km north of their Wellington destination this afternoon.

A Qantas spokesperson confirmed flight QF171 was diverted to Ohakea due to a mechanical issue where it landed safely just after 3pm.

Passengers on board the flight have reported the captain informed them the reason for the diversion was one of the plane's flaps was stuck and the runway at Wellington was too short to land safely.

"Passengers will be transported by bus to Wellington to complete their journey," a Qantas spokesperson said.

"We apologise to our customers for the disruption but safety will always be our first priority.

"Usually in these circumstances the aircraft would divert to Palmerston, however this was not possible due to local weather conditions."

UK woman Lisa Blatch is on board the QF171 flight after a 40-hour journey from Gatwick Airport.

She was on her way to visit her sister in Wellington who is about to undergo surgery, and is currently waiting at Wellington airport to pick her up.

"There's baby in arms on the plane, people with young families," Blatch said.

"It's been two hours now. The plane is full. They've only just been able to open one of the front doors to be able to let some air in to cool people off.

"Got to say the staff have been fantastic. The last we heard was the customs may be bussed up here from Wellington but we were told that about 10 minutes ago with an ETA of 7pm."

Other passengers have been tweeting about the lack of customs facilities to process international passengers as the cause of their being stranded on the military tarmac.

"Awkward when your international flight gets diverted to an air base, and they can't let you off the plane because there's no customs," Suzy McKinney tweeted.

"#QF171 Can't leave plane because no customs, can't fly plane as broken, can't get replacement plane (easily at least) as at air base. A difficult problem to solve."

McKinney added on Twitter that it was unclear what the mechanical issue with the plane was.

"A technical issue with the 'flaps' is what was cited by the captain," she posted

Another person apparently on board the plane, Ryan Newington, has posted "it's getting very warm in here".

Newington added Qantas attendants were refusing to open the doors of the plane and the temperature was becoming very uncomfortable.

"#QF171 sitting on the tarmac in the sun, getting extremely hot in the plane. Many passengers visibly distressed. @Qantas won't open the door because reasons. Customs apparently driving up from Wellington (2 hours away), not sure there's much point, we'll all be roasted by then," he wrote.

Another passenger added: "The crew are doing their utmost best to help and keep positive in super challenging circumstances. But two hours until we can ... dunno, get customs to consider letting us out? No wifi, poor reception, and water and crackers. At least we landed somewhere!"

Another woman who contacted the Herald said they had been grounded for an hour and a half at Ohakea but no decision had been made on letting the passengers exit.

"Best guess is that we'll have to wait a further two hours for customs to come to us," she said.

The woman had been travelling for more than 36 hours from the United Kingdom and said the aircraft was just sitting on the tarmac.


Yeah well a plane is made up of over a million parts and sometimes things go wrong. It was going to be a 3 hour flight so would have only had one meal on board.
Doors could have been opened though to allow air through the plane.
We were diverted to New Caledonia for fuel when Brisbane was fogged in and a 12 hour flight turned into 17 hours. Had to sit refuelling for well over an hour and I bet it was hotter than Palmy ever gets. Crew opened doors though but was still very hot. We didnt get, nor expected compensation, we were just happy to have enough fuel to get home, late or not. Total time awake was over 30 hours on that journey due to delays at LAX etc. The joys of travel.





Local journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Otago Daily Times reporters and photographers continue to bring you the stories that matter. For more than 158 years our journalists have provided readers with local news you can trust. This is more important now than ever.

As advertising drops off during the pandemic, support from our readers is crucial. You can help us continue to bring you news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter