Passengers in air for 16 hours forced to return to where they started after JFK electrical fire

The flight is normally one of the longest direct commercial routes in the world.

February 17, 2023, 8:54 AM

One of the longest commercial flights in the world did a U-turn over the Pacific Ocean to return to its departure airport over 16 hours later because of a closure of New York's JFK Terminal One.

Air New Zealand 2 took off from Auckland, New Zealand, at 8:00 p.m. local time but rather than arrive at JFK as scheduled 16 hours later, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner landed back in Auckland at 12:25 p.m. the next day, according to FlightAware. The airplane was more than 2,000 miles from the coast of California when it abruptly turned around to return to New Zealand.

PHOTO: In this March 26, 2021 file photo airline signage outside Terminal 1 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York.
In this March 26, 2021 file photo airline signage outside Terminal 1 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York.
Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

"Due to an electrical fire in Terminal 1 at JFK Airport and the terminal's subsequent closure, NZ2 Auckland to New York was forced to divert back to Auckland," a New Zealand Air spokesperson said in a statement.

Specifically asked why the airplane did not land at another U.S. airport, the spokesperson noted that "diverting to another U.S. port would have meant the aircraft would remain on the ground for several days," which would affect other scheduled flights. The passengers on the flight have been rebooked to the next available service, according to the spokesperson.

JFK Terminal One, which serves over 80 international airlines according to a Port Authority website, closed on Thursday after a small fire prompted a power outage. According to the Port Authority, the terminal remains closed Friday due to continued electrical issues.

When the terminal closed Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to air missions informing essential airline personnel about the closure; however, the Air New Zealand flight took off before the notice was issued.

When it does arrive at JFK as planned, Air New Zealand 2 has a flight time of roughly 16 hours, making it one of the longest commercial flights offered worldwide.

Thursday's flight not only brought passengers back to their original departure airport but also landed 55 minutes late, according to FlightAware.

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