A Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Bali made it all the way to the other side of Australia near Broome before it was forced to make a U-turn and return to Melbourne.
news.com.au has confirmed the plane was refused by Indonesian authorities.
It was another blow for Aussie holiday goers on-board who had already waited at Melbourne Airport for hours because their flight scheduled for 6.15pm on Tuesday was significantly delayed.
There was relief when the plane eventually took off about 11pm but little did passengers know they would be landing back at the same airport on Wednesday morning.
A passenger, who described the ordeal as a “holiday nightmare”, told news.com.au they had nearly made it to Denpasar when they were informed by the pilot they did not have clearance to land and would have to return to Melbourne.
“He advised they had investigated Darwin and Perth but chose Melbourne because we had enough fuel and it would be better for staffing, and therefore a new flight,” the frequent flyer said, who did not want to be named.
When the plane landed back in Melbourne, about eight hours after departure, he said passengers were informed the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was not permitted to land at Bali Airport at the time they had attempted (about 2am local time).
“Mostly holiday goers who had already been majorly disrupted several times were annoyed and perplexed how a flight could make it 80 per cent and be denied landing,” the passenger said.
“This confusion was share by staff with many saying that had never heard of this ever occurring.”
Tensions were high, with the passenger telling news.com.au crew were sworn at and some passengers were chanting disparaging slogans.
“I was sitting next to a pilot who was crewing to Bali (to captain a flight back to Perth) and he said he has never heard of this before,” he said.
Another passenger on Twitter said it was “the worst travel experience of my life”, adding they were only on the flight because their previous flight had been cancelled.
Jetstar confirmed to news.com.au “miscommunication” between Indonesian authorities had resulted in the pilot being informed mid-air the plane was not approved to land in Bali.
“We swapped yesterday’s Melbourne to Bali service to a larger Boeing 787 aircraft to carry more customers during the holidays,” a Jetstar spokesman explained on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, the aircraft swap was not approved by the local regulator in Indonesia. As soon as we became aware, the flight returned to Melbourne, and we have rebooked passengers on a flight later today.
“We know this has been an extremely frustrating experience for customers and sincerely apologise for what happened.”
The spokesman said disgruntled passengers waiting for a new flight to Bali on Wednesday had been given hotel rooms, meal vouchers and will be provided a $200 travel voucher.
Jetstar has also committed to covering additional airport transport costs.
“We’ve begun a review to understand how the miscommunication happened so we can prevent it from occurring again,” the spokesman said.
Bali’s Christmas travel rush
Travellers who have landed in Bali for the summer holidays have found themselves stuck at the airport for hours after touching down.
Those stepping off planes in the tourist hotspot joined a huge queue to get through immigration and customs on Christmas Day.
Pictures and videos showed a sea of people clogging up Ngurah Rai International Airport waiting to get into Bali to start their summer vacation.
One woman on social media said it took her 3.5 hours to get out of the airport after arriving from Australia at about 9.30pm.
She estimated 2500 travellers waiting and 10 customs officers working.
Bali is well aware of how frustrating travellers find the long the queues to get through the immigration and customs checkpoints during busy periods at the international airport.
There are companies that travellers can pay to provide a VIP service and fast-track entry into the Indonesian island.
A designated person will meet the traveller at their gate upon arrival and escort them through the airport, which includes skipping the queues.
However, fast-tracked travellers still need to wait to collect their check-in luggage from the baggage carousel like everyone else.
Travellers have documented the service on TikTok, which can cost about $50 per person.
One video posted in October by traveller Jenny Zhou, which now has 885,000 views, received mixed reaction.
Some labelled the service a “rip off” while others said it was a “great tip”.
“100% recommend it too! We learnt the hard way and waited 3.5 hours to clear,” one person said.
“People saying it’s a waste of money clearly haven’t stood in a queue for 5 hours in Bali airport with no wifi,” said another.
Others suggested the fast-track service was only worth it for travellers with just carry-on bags and some pointed out it was cheaper to get the service at the airport rather than booking in advance.
“Done this and yeah they all catch up at the bags. Do it if you have carry on only,” one traveller said.
“I went end of August/September. It’s a case of luck. When I arrived it was dead and it would’ve been a waste of money, busier season maybe worth it,” another added.
A third said: “Sometimes waiting in airport queues is all part of the holiday experience.”
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