Why Most Longhaul Flights From Auckland Will Divert Over The Coming Days

Filed Under: Travel

If you’re booked on a longhaul flight to or from Auckland Airport over the next couple of weeks, don’t be surprised if your flight has an unexpected refueling stop.

The airport is fuel rationing due to a damaged pipeline between the airport and the refinery. Here’s the explanation from Auckland International Airport as to what happened:

Refining New Zealand, which owns the Marsden Point fuel refinery, has advised Auckland Airport that it is working on repairing a section of its damaged fuel pipeline which connects the refinery in Marsden Point to Wiri Oil Services Limited in Auckland, which in turns supplies airlines with aviation fuel at the airport.

Oil companies are responsible for storing and supplying fuel for use by airlines at the airport, and as a result of the pipeline damage the oil companies are currently rationing the amount of fuel they are supplying to airlines.

This has resulted in approximately 27 domestic and international flights being cancelled so far this weekend.

As you can see, there haven’t actually been that many cancelations, though what the above doesn’t account for is the number of flights that have been forced to divert in order to refuel. For example, for the time being:

  • Emirates’ flight from Auckland to Dubai is diverting to Christchurch (September 17) or Brisbane (September 18-24)
  • Cathay Pacific’s flight from Auckland to Hong Kong is diverting to Brisbane
  • Some of Air New Zealand’s flights from Auckland to Los Angeles are diverting to Nadi
  • Surprisingly, Qatar Airways’ flight from Auckland to Doha today (the longest flight in the world) is operating nonstop

Even some flights to Auckland are diverting. For example, today’s NZ5 from Los Angeles to Auckland is stopping in Nadi to refuel. The logic here is that the plane can get enough fuel in Nadi to get it to whatever the next destination is after Auckland. So if the plane were flying from Los Angeles to Auckland and back, it would refuel in Los Angeles, then refuel in Nadi, then refuel in Nadi again after flying to Auckland and back, etc.

(Tip of the hat to Geoffrey)

  1. How can the plane land with full tanks. I thought that was not allowed. Why are they not allowed to land with full tanks?

  2. This is a nightmare for passengers who require transit visas for Australia. They may have booked on nonstop flights out of New Zealand back to their home countries, but if their flight has to refuel at an Australian airport now they suddenly have to apply for the transit visas (required for many nationalities even if they only remain on board the plane during a fuel stop) – which can only be done in their home country.

  3. So the Nadi stops mean you’re essentially air-lifting fuel.
    Parhaps they can offset some of the extra burn they’d have if they needed to carry the full tank from LAX, but still seems quite wasteful.

  4. @ Benjamin

    If you bothered to read his post in full you can see that he addresses that


    Thanks for the great insight as always

  5. @debit
    Not full, but not exactly empty either.
    Full tanks: weight and if shit happens you got fuel to add to worry. Jet fuel can melt steel beams. Its dangerous.

  6. Well if they don’t have transit visas then they will be sent back to their home countrieand not allowed to enter Australia s which is where they want to go anyway. So what’s the problem?

  7. @debit, think you are being facetious but if not, the issue, if not dealt with, is that they wouldn’t be allowed to board in NZ
    Having said that, kind of weird that OZ would require a transit visa if they don’t deplane. From what I recall, many flights out of Addis Ababa, including the one I was on, refuel in Sudan, and we definitely did not have to deal with any formalities for the Sudanese government. I wonder what the logic would be behind requiring a transit visa for passengers on a quarantined plane.

  8. @Farnorthtrader

    Different country, different rules. Some countries allow sterile transit, some don’t. Australia don’t same as the US.

    Not saying it makes any sense.

  9. No name – It makes perfect sense. You’re effectively on their territory (ignoring technicalities about sterile areas) and should anything go wrong, you could have to enter it properly.

    It’s incredibly annoying and a waste of time/money from the passenger perspective for trivial benefits to the host country, but it definitely makes sense.

  10. Aus won’t require a transit visa – you won’t be getting off the plane. Do you really think that AirNZ or others are going to cause that big an issue for passengers when then could just divert to Christchurch for fuel like Emirates have!? Ridiculous.

    Also – AirNZ has published a list of cancellations to domestic and trans-Tasman services for the next week so that they can improve load factors and reduce fuel usage

  11. @Callum

    Barring medical emergencies and perhaps full scale airport emergencies that require the sterile area to be emptied, there is very little reason for you to enter a country provided the airport has a transit hotel in the sterile area in case of flight delays.

    In all other cases it’s up to the airline to insure that passenger has the right travel documentation for their end destination. And if they don’t to return them to where they found them, so to speak

    Probably the biggest reason for not allowing non-sterile transit has more to do with immigration than anything else, fortune seekers from the 3 world booking a flight true the 1 world and claiming asylum scenario.

    And that is something that should be handled by strict immigration laws rather than wasting law abiding legit travelers time. Sadly like most cases involving security/immigration in the past 16 years the baby often end up being thrown out with the bathwater due to political correctness of treating everybody the same regardless of race, age and sex.

    Note that sterile transit does not mean not doing extra security checks on passengers coming from destinations where security checks are know to be less than good, just talking about customs and immigration here.

  12. Security theater. Lots of connections thru some disliked countries. If you don’t have to disembark; no foul. But governments sharing troubling information from a source may require it. Finger prints and face pic can narrow the pool of malcontents. It a weird world now. Who knows?

  13. Australia requires transit visas for passengers who transit (even international-international transit). Passengers who stay on board during a technical fuel stop are not considered in transit as they do not deplane, and therefore do not require transit visas.

    TL;DR: ausnz is correct, Sean is wrong.

  14. The problem with @Sean Mendis comment is that it is just wrong. If you are not going through Australian immigration, you don’t need a transit visa (ie if you arrive in SYD from SIN on route to CHC, you don’t have to go through immigration)

  15. From Australian Border website:

    Eligible travellers must be able to meet the following criteria to be permitted to transit Australia without applying for a visa. Travellers must:
    -enter Australia by aircraft
    -hold a confirmed onward booking to leave Australia to travel to a third country on the same or another aircraft within 8 hours of arrival in Australia
    -hold documentation necessary to enter the country of destination
    -not need to leave the airport transit lounge except to continue their journey.

    -If passengers are required to pass through Immigration clearance and check-in to their onward flight, including managing their luggage, they will require a visa to enter Australia. An appropriate visa for this purpose will need to be applied for and granted before travelling to Australia.
    -There are limited transit facilities available at the Gold Coast airport (OOL).
    -Overnight stays are not permitted at Cairns (CNS) and Sydney (SYD) airports. Passengers transiting overnight will need an appropriate visa for Australia to leave the airport to access overnight accommodation.
    -Transit facilities at Adelaide airport (ADL) are only available for passengers arriving and departing on the same aircraft. However the transit lounge will be made available for other transit passengers if the airline provides advance notice.

  16. @Hutch

    The key point is Eligible travellers, neither China or India is on that list. Not even Russian diplomatic holders are on that list, let alone ordinary citizens.

    Might not be that many Russian going to NZ, but there might be more some from China or India on the Cathay flight.

    Hopefully technical fuel stop does not need an AUS visa.

    From Australian Border website:

    Categories of eligible travellers

    The following categories of travellers are eligible to transit through Australia without applying for a visa:

    Citizens of the following countries:
    Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (including its colonies), United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Vatican.
    Residents of Hong Kong holding a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport or a British National Overseas (BNO) passport.
    Residents of Taiwan holding a passport issued by the authorities of Taiwan (other than passports purported to be official or diplomatic passports).
    Indian official passport holders.
    Diplomatic passport holders, excluding holders of:
    Arab Non-National Passports; and
    Diplomatic passports from the following countries:
    Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Comoros, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, ā€‹Tunisia, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

  17. @dotti

    If the fuel is normally delivered by pipe line where would the fuel trucks come from? Have a large number of trucks just sitting around in case something brakes would be very costly and you would probably never end up using them.

    NZ is a small island nation, it’s not like it’s the US where you can drive in fuel trucks from other states if there is any available.

  18. The heading is misleading. Currently only a small proportion of longhaul flights to/from AKL are being diverted for a tech stop for fuel. Most longhaul flights are unaffected.

    The biggest impacts are for domestic and trans-Tasman, with several flights being cancelled on NZ, QF, JQ, and VA.

  19. Welcome to New Zealand: the least developed of the developed countries, and the poorest amongst the oil producing nations. šŸ˜‰

    Anyone can calculate how many fuel trucks would they need to give that Qatar plane enough fuel to go non stop to Doha?

  20. @No Name,
    Thanks for enlightening all these 1st worlders who don’t know what it feels like to travel with a passport from a 3rd world country. I hold a Nigerian passport and require a transit visa even for many places even if I am not going through immigration. I’ve flown SIN-LAX via NRT on SQ and had to get a transit visa for Japan despite the fact that it’s the same plane. I’ve also flown SIN-AKL via BNE on Emirates and had to get Aussie transit visa though I was in the airport the whole time and didn’t have to go through immigration. SIN to VTE via BKK on Thai also requires a transit visa for Bangkok. I could go on!!! I don’t know what the case would be if you don’t get down from the plane but I wouldn’t be surprised

  21. You realize that Jet-A is delivered by pipeline to every major airport in the U.S. A roadgoing semi can carry ~9000 U.S. Gal. of fuel. An A320 takes 6,300 Gal. to fill, a B748 closer to 59,000. So there is almost no conceivable way for trucks to deliver the fuel to any major airport, even with a pipeline outage.

  22. Lucky, does the diverted Emirates flight that went Christchurch Dubai direct claim the longest commercial flight title (as a one off) or is Auckland Doha the longest??

  23. @KiwiPocky

    Christchurch-Dubai is almost a 100 miles shorter than Auckland-Dubai.

    Both a few hundred miles shorter than the Auckland-Doha run.

  24. We just landed in Auckland this morning on QR920. I was discussing the situation with a crew member on the way over. The reason that QR left with all the fuel itrequired it required may be because of the 17 hour flight a refueling stop would put the crew over their maximum permitted hours and make the flight impossible to operate. That was her view any way. We’re going back on Saturday so we shall see what happens.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.