Chaos as Taylor Swift left luggage diverts Qantas flight

by Peter Newport - Feb 26, 2024

The fallout for Australian airline Qantas from Taylor Swift fans booked from Queenstown to Sydney continued over the weekend with one flight ending up in Christchurch for extra fuel, leaving passengers irate and very late.

Commercial property manager Sarah Jackson told Crux from Sydney today that she arrived at Queenstown Airport for her flight at around 1pm on Saturday (February 24), and was surprised to see that the Qantas app showed Christchurch, not Sydney, as the destination.

She says when she asked airport staff about this, she was told it might be some sort of mistake.

She says there was then five hours of utter confusion as the aircraft departure time kept getting pushed back and the flight disappeared from all of the departure flight screens as well as the Qantas app.

It was only when she was finally on board the aircraft at around 6pm that the pilot announced they were flying to Christchurch to pick up extra fuel.

Qantas Flight QF 122 on February 24 - destination Sydney, actual destination, Christchurch. Image: Flightradar24

The reason: the plane was carrying 65 extra bags, many belonging to Taylor Swift fans heading to the singer's Sydney concert, that were offloaded from the same Qantas flight the day before. The bags were offloaded on Friday due to strong winds and take off weight restrictions at Queenstown Airport.

The Boeing 737-800 could not safely fly from Queenstown to Sydney on Saturday for much the same reason - the relatively short length of the Queenstown runway, head winds across the Tasman and the extra weight of Friday’s left luggage.

Ms Jackson told Crux that many people ended up missing their connections in Australia when the flight finally arrived in Sydney from Christchurch about six hours late.

She said that Qantas had trouble getting her to domestic business meetings in Australia let alone across the Tasman from Queenstown. She’d been taking part in a five-day New Zealand mental health charity hike, and is a Kiwi who at one stage was also a Queenstown resident.

“It was a sh** show,” she said today but had some words of praise for the Qantas pilot and aircraft crew, who she says did a great job under the circumstances.

A spokesperson for Queenstown Airport told Crux today that problems did occasionally occur in relation to different operating procedures for different airlines and aircraft, but it was unusual for passengers or bags to be offloaded.

“We’ve had direct Trans-Tasman flights at ZQN (Queenstown) for almost two decades, so the airlines have well established processes and parameters for operating on the runway here.

“The ZQN runway length is designed for short haul international operations. For reference, the Queenstown Airport runway is slightly longer than Wellington’s.

“We’d note that while it can happen, as it did over the last couple of days, it is very rare for a Trans-Tasman flight to offload passengers and/or divert to refuel before crossing the Tasman."

Qantas had little to say about Saturday’s Queenstown – Christchurch – Sydney flight, apart from referencing the need to “top up fuel in Christchurch”, adding “customers were not charged extra for the stop in Christchurch”.

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