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Australia: Jetstar flight to Bali turned back to Melbourne after four hours over ‘miscommunication’

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Jetstar has apologised after holidaymakers heading to Bali from Melbourne were turned around four hours into their flight because the airline failed to get approval from Indonesian authorities to use a different plane.

Flight JQ35 left Melbourne for Denpasar on Tuesday at 11.02pm AEDT after being delayed for almost five hours but was sent back to Melbourne once it had already flown across Australia and was above the Timor Sea near Broome.

Passengers check in at Melbourne Airport for a replacement flight. © Joe Armao Passengers check in at Melbourne Airport for a replacement flight.

By the time passengers arrived back in Victoria’s capital, they had spent about eight hours in the air. The route from Melbourne to Denpasar usually takes five hours and 40 minutes.

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A Jetstar spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday the airline had upgraded the plane from an Airbus A321 to a larger Boeing 787 to carry more customers during the busy holiday season, but “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,” the spokesperson said.

Melbourne man Ben Kroone said it was too early in the morning and everyone was too exhausted to feel anything other than disbelief when the flight tracker on board their plane suddenly showed it diverting.

Ben Kroone (centre right) was on the Jetstar flight to Bali that was turned around. © Joe Armao Ben Kroone (centre right) was on the Jetstar flight to Bali that was turned around.

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“A lot of people were just waking up around then ... and so they were rudely awoken to hear that the plane had turned back and was going back to Melbourne.”

Kroone, who was supposed to spend four nights in Bali before flying to Thailand to meet friends, said cabin crew also seemed to be in the dark.

Kroone was initially booked to fly on Monday, but that flight was cancelled. He was moved onto Tuesday’s flight, which was delayed by almost five hours and then returned him to Melbourne. He was queuing on Wednesday afternoon for another replacement flight.

Passengers arrived back in Melbourne about 6.50am on Wednesday and had to go through customs before some people were provided hotels.

“Obviously, there was a few tears, people who were just exhausted from the whole thing,” Kroone said.

Jetstar said hotel rooms were available to everybody, but Kroone disputed that was communicated, and he stayed with a friend who was provided accommodation near the hotel. Meal vouchers and additional airport transport costs were also being provided, along with a $200 travel voucher.

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The airline apologised for the diversion and said it had begun a review to “understand how the miscommunication happened”. It acknowledged it was “an extremely frustrating experience for customers”.

The issue also affected one service from Denpasar to Melbourne scheduled to depart Indonesia at 3.15am on Tuesday. About 100 passengers were affected by the cancelled service and were moved to flights on other airlines. Jetstar said the last of those passengers would arrive in Melbourne this afternoon.

“To thank customers for their patience, we’re also reaching out to them to provide a $200 travel voucher,” a Jetstar spokesperson said.

A replacement flight to Bali is scheduled to leave Melbourne airport at 4.45pm on Wednesday.

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