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A spokesperson for the airline has confirmed the Wellington-bound Dash Q300 had to turn back to Invercargill.
The plane will now be assessed by engineers in Invercargill.
A passenger told Stuff they were sleeping when the plane was hit and she could smell smoke in the cabin after the bang.
Passengers were then informed the aircraft's nose had been damaged, she said.
Customers have been re-accommodated on other services.