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Jetstar Flight Makes 8-Hour Flight Back to Destination Due to ‘Miscommunication’
A Jetstar flight from Melbourne, Australia to Denpasar, Indonesia was forced to turn back to Melbourne after being en route for four hours. The aircraft had just left the coast of Australia when it was discovered that the airline would be exceeding capacity restrictions under the terms of the air service agreement between the two countries. Though Darwin was a possible airport to divert to, the decision was made to return to Melbourne due to operational reasons such as crew availability and alternative flight options.
The flight’s departure had already been delayed for five hours and by the time passengers landed back in Melbourne they had spent eight hours in the air. The scheduled flight time between the capital of the Australian state of Victoria and the popular holiday destination was five hours and forty minutes.
According to The Age newspaper Jetstar ‘had upgraded the plane from an Airbus A321 to a larger Boeing 787 to carry more customers during the busy holiday season, but “due to a miscommunication, the aircraft swap was not approved by the local regulator in Indonesia”’. Some passengers have disputed this claim as bookings made a number of months ago specify the operating aircraft type as a 787.
Under the terms of the bilateral air service agreement between the two countries, Australian airlines have specific capacity restrictions and operating a widebody aircraft instead of the single-aisle would have breached these limits for Jetstar. The terms of air service agreements are continually monitored and airlines may be required to reapply to increase or decrease services to maintain operations. In some cases airlines may lose the ability to continue operations between countries if it is determined that they are failing to meet the terms of an air service agreement.
In Australia this revocation of rights by the International Air Services Commission (IASC) may occur if ‘an allocation is generally no longer of benefit to the public.’ The Act pertaining to this cites several reasons that this may be the case for example ‘the carrier has failed to service the route effectively’ or ‘the Commission is satisfied that a different allocation of capacity would be of greater benefit to the public.’
In 2020, after Covid-19 caused the Australian government to restrict travel into the country, Virgin Australia applied for a change to the terms of operation between Australia and Indonesia. Prior to the pandemic, the carrier had been operating ‘up to 21 services a week using a B737-800 aircraft between Denpasar and the following points in Australia: Brisbane, Port Hedland and Sydney.’ Under the original terms of the agreement Virgin Australia was allocated 2800 seats per week in each direction. However, due to the Australian government’s restrictions, the airline asked for the capacity allocation to be reduced to 120 seats per week in each direction.
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