Hundreds of Aussies who were on board a Jetstar flight that was forced to make a U-turn as it approached Bali have been dealt a cruel second blow.
Flight JQ35 had more than 300 passengers on board when it eventually left Melbourne at 11pm on Tuesday after an almost five-hour delay.
The packed Boeing 787 Dreamliner made it all the way to the other side of the country near Broome in Western Australia before it was forced to return to Melbourne.
The budget airline confirmed to news.com.au it had failed to apply for the required approval from Indonesian authorities after a late decision to change to a bigger aircraft.
But exhausted passengers who spent almost eight hours on the first flight were left stunned when their rescheduled flight to Bali the next day was also delayed.
The rescheduled flight was due to leave at 4.45pm on Wednesday but didn’t depart until 6.15pm – 24 hours after the original flight was scheduled.
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The frustrated passengers finally landed in Bali on their replacement flight – which was an approved Boeing 787 – at 8.45pm on Wednesday local time (11:45pm AEDT).
news.com.au understands the delay was due to “operational reasons”.
Melbourne to Bali U-turn
Aussie holidaygoers 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 shared by staff with many saying they 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.
Later in the afternoon on Wednesday, one passenger told Nine News she missed her cousin’s wedding due to the ordeal and another woman who had travelled from Sydney said she had already clocked up 38 hours of travel time.
Jetstar’s embarrassing error
Jetstar confirmed to news.com.au “internal miscommunication” within the company meant it failed to apply for the required approval from Indonesian authorities to land the larger plane in Bali, and the pilot was informed mid-air the plane was not approved.
“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 morning.
“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 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.
Jetstar did not provide further comment about the replacement flight delay.