It is the stuff of nightmares. You are trying to get somewhere, you are prepared and planned and you are doing your best but still you end up back where you started.
That’s what happened to regular flight Bryan Gottlieb and his fellow Air New Zealand passengers on Thursday when their planned trip from Auckland to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was interrupted due to an electrical outage at the airport.
JFK’s Terminal 1 was closed and some of the flights scheduled to land there had to be diverted. Some international flights landed at other airports: Newark, Washington Dulles, Boston Logan.
Gottlieb’s flight, ANZ2, turned around mid-flight and landed back in Auckland, more than 16 hours after departing from the same airport. Flight tracking site FlightAware logs a total flight time of 16 hours and 25 minutes, with the plane turning back about halfway through its scheduled journey.
“I was sleeping soundly, and I woke up with the feeling that I would definitely be landing in JFK soon,” Gottlieb said in a message to CNN Travel. Then “the passenger next to me took me on the shoulder and said ‘did you know we’re almost back in Auckland?'”
Gottlieb said his fellow passenger gave him the news two or three times before the plane landed. Notice of the diversion didn’t come until the flight was almost back in New Zealand, he said, although “you could see our route on the tracker, and the story was spread around.”
He said when the pilot made the announcement, “he admitted that part of the decision was based on the efficiency of the airline’s schedule, and that the lack of staff at an airport near JFK would cause further delays for the airline.”
The passengers were not happy.
“Everyone on that plane would much rather be in any airport in the United States, let alone Newark or LaGuardia right in the same general area,” said Gottlieb, a game designer who was on his way home from a five-week working trip. be on the tail end of his brother’s bachelor party tour.
Air New Zealand said Thursday in a statement to CNN Travel that “a diversion to another US port would mean the aircraft would remain on the ground for several days, which would disrupt some other scheduled services and customers.”
At the time, the flight was still on its way back to Auckland, and the airline said its staff were ready to help customers rebook on the next available service.
“We apologize for the inconvenience and thank our customers for their patience and understanding,” the statement said. CNN reached out to the airline Friday for more details but did not immediately hear back.
Gottlieb, who lives in New York, spent eight hours at Auckland airport waiting for his next flight out to Los Angeles, where he was due to connect with JFK. Air New Zealand provided him with $100 worth of meal vouchers, but he had no luck buying his way into a loyalty club lounge to refresh in Auckland. He had not heard of further compensation at the time he communicated with CNN.
The diversion flight was Gottlieb’s second attempt to get home. His original flight back to the States was canceled on Monday due to the devastating cyclone that hit New Zealand this week. His wife’s plans to join him for the last two weeks of his stay were thwarted when her flight was canceled due to flooding at Auckland airport in late January.
With the 16-hour delay from Auckland to Auckland, he missed the entire bachelor party. As far as trips go, “it was definitely a wild one!”
Gottlieb said he is disappointed with the airline’s response “on a corporate level,” but found airline staff very helpful.
“This was definitely the worst travel experience I’ve ever had, but at the end of the day, these things happen, and I always try to remember that no one I’m interacting with had anything to do with the decisions which slowed me down. — they’re all just doing their best and they’ve been legitimately kind.”
And New Zealand is one of Gottlieb’s favorite places.
“Both the people and the region are beautiful. I definitely wish it was a little closer though.”