Oops: Jetstar’s Embarrassing Bali Flight Blunder

Oops: Jetstar’s Embarrassing Bali Flight Blunder

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This is one of the more embarrassing reasons that an airline has operated a flight to nowhere

Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Bali returns to Melbourne

This incident happened on Tuesday, December 27, 2022, on Jetstar flight JQ35, scheduled to operate from Melbourne, Australia (MEL), to Bali, Indonesia (DPS). For those not familiar, Jetstar is a low cost carrier that’s a subsidiary of 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).

Unfortunately the flight already started on a bad note — it only departed at 11:02PM, nearly five hours behind schedule. At this point passengers were already going to be landing in Bali in the middle of the night. The flight climbed up to 40,000 feet, and for the first four hours operated roughly as planned.

However, while over the very north of Western Australia, as the plane was about to start its journey over the ocean, the plane turned around. It proceeded to fly all the way back to Melbourne. The plane landed back in Melbourne at 6:48AM, essentially performing a 7.5+ hour flight to nowhere. And again, that doesn’t even factor in the nearly five hour departure delay, as passengers returned to Melbourne more than 12 hours after their scheduled departure.

Funny enough (well, at least for those of us who weren’t on this flight), the flight covered a distance of 4,196 miles, over 50% further than the planned distance to the actual destination.

Jetstar’s Boeing 787 flight to nowhere

What went wrong with this Jetstar flight?

There are lots of legitimate reasons that flights sometimes return to their origin — there could be a maintenance issue, there could be an issue with the destination that makes flying there challenging, etc. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, that wasn’t the case here.

So, what happened? Well, this Jetstar route is ordinarily operated by an Airbus A321neo, rather than a Boeing 787-8. However, for whatever reason the airline decided to upgrade the flight to a bigger plane. It’s not clear if this was due to higher seasonal demand, or due to some maintenance issue with another aircraft (given the delay).

There’s only one problem — the airline forgot to get permission for this with authorities in Indonesia. With authorities there refusing to grant the plane permission to land, the decision was made to turn around.

As a Jetstar spokesperson explains:

“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.”

Interestingly the airline seems to show some Bali flights over the coming days similarly “upgraded” to the 787, though I imagine that will be changed. At least that assumes that the airline didn’t get permission to fly a bigger aircraft on the route on some dates, but not on Tuesday.

Jetstar’s planned aircraft for JQ35

Obviously this is a humiliating blunder. I don’t envy the position that the crew was in, informing passengers on a flight that’s already five hours late that they’ll be turning around to Melbourne, and flying nearly eight hours to nowhere.

This is an embarrassing mistake that was clearly avoidable. That being said, aviation is incredibly complicated (including all the permission that has to be requested with foreign authorities), and once in a while things go wrong. That’s not to excuse it, but human error does happen sometimes.

Bottom line

A Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Bali was first delayed by nearly five hours, and then had to return to Melbourne more than halfway through its journey, resulting in a 7.5+ hour flight to nowhere. This was because Jetstar swapped to a larger aircraft for the flight, but that hadn’t been cleared with authorities in Indonesia.

While flights to nowhere happen every once in a while, this is one of the more avoidable reasons…

What do you make of this Jetstar flight to nowhere?

Conversations (27)
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  1. Thomas Foo Guest

    No excuse as Jetstar should know that they just cannot swop a plane without approval from Indonesian authorities. Maybe Jetstar thought that it is an Australian airline and didn't have to respect Indonesian rules. It could have been worst if the plane had to turnaround and return to Melbourne on arriving at Bali airport.

  2. Rob Johnson Guest

    Your content is generally solid, but you need to learn the distinction between further and farther, and end your misuse of the word allegedly. These are not crimes being committed. You would be more accurate to use reportedly, but if you are unable to cite a source.

  3. harry hv Guest

    Australia and Indonesia have an agreement with a strict monthly limit on the number of passengers to be carried by Australian airlines. With its extra passengers, this flight would have exceeded the limit.

    Jetstar is the lowest of the LCCs, a 6 hour delay is nothing out of the ordinary and its customers - like Qantas - are treated with contempt. Also, Melbourne to Bali is too far for a 738 so this flight routinely makes an unscheduled refuelling stop in Darwin.

    1. Johosofat Guest

      Jetstar doesn't operate any 738s

    2. Seb Guest

      MEL-DPS is definitely not too far for a B738
      Flown this route already on QF without any fuel stop in DRW.

  4. Angel Diaz Guest

    I still need to understand why can't this airline do an equipment upgrade, especially with two narrow-bodied jets. It's not like the B738 is a whole lot larger than the A321. Why is the government even involved??

    1. GSHLGB New Member

      787-8 not 737

      Twin Aisle

      "Jetstar route is ordinarily operated by an Airbus A321neo, rather than a Boeing 787-8"

    2. kimshep Guest

      Angel, you also fail to understand that routes from/to Australia and Indonesia are strictly *capacity-limited (by number of seats)* and monitored, due to the existing bilateral agreement in place between the two countries.

      I am not seeking to defend Jetstar ... and their explanation deftly seems to avoid admitting any guilt / fault on their behalf. But for those of us that have been watching, JQ has had a number of 'inconveniences' in Bali of...

      Angel, you also fail to understand that routes from/to Australia and Indonesia are strictly *capacity-limited (by number of seats)* and monitored, due to the existing bilateral agreement in place between the two countries.

      I am not seeking to defend Jetstar ... and their explanation deftly seems to avoid admitting any guilt / fault on their behalf. But for those of us that have been watching, JQ has had a number of 'inconveniences' in Bali of late - resulting in cancelled or substantially delayed flights. The real reason for the B787-8 upgrade may well have been to pick up an excess of people in Bali that had earlier (in the past few days) been 'inconvenienced'. Hmm, a lot of unhappy customers ..

  5. Dick Bupkiss Guest

    Authorities in Bali probably learned there were some unmarried couples on the plane.

    1. kimshep Guest

      LOL - I see what you did there ! Subtle.
      Without question, the comment of the day. Kudos.

    2. Jkjkjk Guest

      This law won’t take into affect for another year or so. Also in Indonesia. There’s a law and there’s money. Money speaks. This law is passed to satisfy the conservatives. This is how a proper democracy works compared to USA which is just full of filibusters.

  6. Joe Guest

    Ben, would you please stop saying “flight to nowhere”? All flights go somewhere, even if they return to their departure point. “Flight to nowhere” might have been funny and clever the first time you wrote it years ago, but now it’s just old and cliche.

    1. Leigh Guest

      You are so sensitive to the point of being silly. If you get worked up by this…I can’t imagine the sum of your other precious sensitivities.

  7. Steve Guest

    Feel their pain, had this happen once on a United flight in 2011 post merger. Was flying EWR-PVG and 6 hours into the flight we turned back to Newark because ground staff forgot to clean out the waste storage tank. Even had to make an emergency landing in Newfoundland as one of the toilets was having a reversal of fortune. 14 hour flight to nowhere and United's response was to try again 2 hours after...

    Feel their pain, had this happen once on a United flight in 2011 post merger. Was flying EWR-PVG and 6 hours into the flight we turned back to Newark because ground staff forgot to clean out the waste storage tank. Even had to make an emergency landing in Newfoundland as one of the toilets was having a reversal of fortune. 14 hour flight to nowhere and United's response was to try again 2 hours after landing back at EWR. Needless to say it took me a long while to hop back on a plane with them again.

  8. 9volt Member

    Yikes. I don’t envy the purser who had to get on the PA to explain why they’re returning to Melbourne.

  9. Up Up & Away Member

    Given the 4 hour waits at immigration at Bali airport this week, maybe this was a blessing in disguise.

    1. Jkjkjk Guest

      This airport is the best airport for WNI.
      No line for WNI. Hallelujah.

  10. JH Guest

    See how well Government "regulations" work to protect passengers in other parts of the world?

    1. Ben L. Diamond

      What is the point you think you're making?

    2. SSS Guest

      I think the point is per Ben’s other posts - is there a need for EU261 type rules to provide compensation to passengers in such situations. Australia does not have this (with Jetstar and its parent Qantas constantly showing complete disregard for travelers). Thus the only way to prevent airlines treating passengers with contempt is to penalize them for doing so.

  11. Daniel Guest

    Jetstar has plenty of routes from Darwin?- why did it not land there.

    1. stogieguy7 Member

      Yes, I thought that too - but upon further reflection, it's because Jetstar doesn't want to have to accomodate all those passengers in Darwin, thinking instead to fly to where a large number of them live: SYD. That way, no hotel, no meals. Same for the crew. They're being cheap.

      If it were me, I'd have much preferred a stop in Darwin to going back to where we started. But this was never about what any of the pax wanted.

  12. Alan Guest

    This is all because customers are not match fit, and absolutely nothing to do with the gross incompetence of Qantas Group management.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Dick Bupkiss Guest

Authorities in Bali probably learned there were some unmarried couples on the plane.

5
justlanded Guest

A boomerang flight...

2
Rob Johnson Guest

Your content is generally solid, but you need to learn the distinction between further and farther, and end your misuse of the word allegedly. These are not crimes being committed. You would be more accurate to use reportedly, but if you are unable to cite a source.

2
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