One of the more embarrassing reasons that an airline has operated a flight is due to this.

Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Bali returns to Melbourne

There was an incident on a flight from Australia to Indonesia on December 27th. Jetstar is a low cost carrier that is owned by Qantas.

The flight was operated by a roughly eight year old Boeing 787-8 with the registration code VH-VKE. The 2,719-mile flight was scheduled to take six hours, departing at 6:15PM and arriving at 9:15PM (there’s a three hour time change).

It only left at 11:02PM, almost five hours behind schedule. The passengers were about to land in the middle of the night. For the first four hours, the flight operated as it was supposed to.

The plane turned around as it was about to start its journey over the ocean. The plane flew all the way back to Melbourne. It took the plane 7.5 hours to return to Melbourne. Passengers returned to Melbourne more than 12 hours after their scheduled departure due to the nearly five hour departure delay.

For those of us who weren't on the flight, the flight covered 4,196 miles, over 50% more than the planned distance.

Jetstar’s Boeing 787 flight to nowhere

What went wrong with this Jetstar flight?

There are a lot of legitimate reasons for flights to return to their origin, but this was not one of them.

What did happen? The route is usually operated by the A321neo, which is a newer version of the A320. The flight was upgraded to a bigger plane. It is unclear if this was due to higher seasonal demand, or due to some maintenance issue with another aircraft.

The airline forgot to get permission from the Indonesian authorities. The decision was made to turn around because the authorities there wouldn't let the plane land.

A spokesman for the airline explained:

“Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, the swap to a larger aircraft had not been 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 airline seems to show some flights in the future that have been upgraded to the 787, though I think that will change. It is assumed that the airline didn't get permission to fly a bigger aircraft on the route on Tuesday.

Jetstar’s planned aircraft for JQ35

This is a big mistake. I don't envy the position that the crew was in, telling passengers on a flight that's already five hours late that they'll have to turn around and fly to somewhere else.

This is an embarrassment that could have been avoided. Aviation is complex, and once in a while things go wrong. Human error does happen occasionally.

Bottom line

A 7.5 hour flight to nowhere was the result of a delay of nearly five hours and the return of the flight more than half way through its journey. The larger aircraft that was swapped for the flight hadn't been approved by Indonesian authorities.

One of the more avoidable reasons is flights to nowhere.

What do you think about the plane?