Terror strikes on board Flight 279


Screams and vomiting as Jetstar plane tries to land

A shaken Jetstar customer claims terrified passengers were “crying, screaming and vomiting” during a nightmare landing at Queenstown Airport.

The busy flight from Auckland on Tuesday last week finally touched down during bad weather – on the third attempt.

Dayne Lewis, a builder from Lake Hawea, claims he and fellow passengers endured a harrowing ordeal as the pilot battled to bring the Airbus A320 down.

“People were crying, screaming and being sick all around me,” he tells Mountain Scene. “It was the kind of flight where you don’t go home and clean your undies – you just throw them out.”

Lewis says things started to go pear-shaped when the 10.25am JQ279 flight first neared Queenstown from over the Crown Range about lunchtime.

“When we started to descend the pilot announced we might have to circle for 15 minutes because there was a bit of traffic and visibility wasn’t the greatest but it was clearing.

“He eventually came in quite low and we started hitting some pretty bad turbulence.

“Then he just hit the throttle and we went straight up. It was worse than takeoff and took everyone by surprise.
“Everyone was s******g themselves but being a bit cool.”

Lewis claims things got worse during a second aborted landing – this time from the Frankton end of Lake Wakatipu.

“The plane just fell for three or four seconds when we made a banking turn,” he says.

“I was on a bad flight in the United States once where the oxygen masks came down but this was heaps worse.

“A bit later, when we were about 400 metres above the airport we shot back up again and some passengers were shouting ‘go to Invercargill’ and stuff.

“There was a mum with a baby near me and she and her partner were just crying.”

Lewis says the plane eventually touched down during a “rough-as” third try, again from the Frankton end.

“People were cheering like they were sitting in a soccer ring because the nightmare must have lasted for about 35 minutes or more.

“When we finally landed, the pilot came back on again and said he was sorry for the turbulence but by then everyone was just unbuckling their seatbelts and getting off as fast as they could.”

Jetstar yesterday apologised to passengers for any discomfort they experienced on the flight – but insisted only its best pilots flew into Queenstown, which is officially New Zealand’s most dangerous airport.

“Some of the airline’s most senior pilots have been brought to NZ to fly Jetstar’s domestic services, including the Queens­town route,” a Jetstar spokesman says.

“While weather can sometimes make flying uncomfortable, our highly experienced pilots operate to strict safety standards, particularly in terms of landing conditions.”

Jetstar is an offshoot of Australian national carrier Qantas.