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Exhausted passenger slams Qantas for 'poor and disgusting' service after diverted plane stuck on tarmac at Ohakea air base for hours

An exhausted passenger today expressed her disgust at Australian airline Qantas, after a planeload of people travelling from Melbourne to Wellington were stuck for nearly four hours on the Ohakea air base tarmac after the plane was diverted.

Passengers stuck on flight QF171. Source: Ryan Newington

Flight QF171 was supposed to land in Wellington at 3pm yesterday but was diverted shortly before it landed at Ohakea air base near Bulls.

A statement from Qantas last night said the aircraft diverted to Ohakea air base due to a "mechanical issue".

One of the passengers on board, Annette Parkin, told 1 NEWS passengers were not made aware of what was happening until about half an hour after the plane turned back from Wellington.

"We were quite close to the ground over the top of the runway, but the plane pulled up. We expected it to turn around and come back but we went back out to sea," Ms Parkin said.

She said it was another half hour before airline staff told passengers what was happening.

"Everyone, including the crew were still in their seatbelts. People were asking 'what's happening? what's going on?' but the staff weren't available."

The plane, she said, appeared to be flying at very low speed and low altitude.

"A flight attendant came over the intercom and said there was an engineering problem and a problem with the flaps and we couldn't land at Wellington Airport," Ms Parkin said.

She said apart from the pilot later telling passengers they were going to land at the military base, no-one was made aware of what was going to happen.

The passengers spent about three and a half hours on the tarmac at Ohakea in sweltering conditions before disembarking to makeshift customs areas.

Qantas Boeing 737-800 Source: Qantas

Ms Parkin said all passengers were given was water, coffee and tea.

"There were so many children on the plane, crying and upset," she said. 

Buses finally arrived to take them to Wellington at about 9.00pm, where they arrived about 11.00pm.

"We were just left to fend for ourselves," Ms Parkin said adding the cabin crew did an "exceptional job under the circumstances".

"There was no food, just getting on the bus, we didn't eat dinner until about midnight."

Ms Parkin says she does not expect compensation after having two other "horrendous" experiences with the airline.

"All I have ever received from them is a pair of first-class pyjamas," she said.

"But I will be contacting them when I get home to tell them how poor and disgusting their service was," she said adding she would never fly with the airline again. 

"I don’t want it to ruin my holidays, I can’t afford to let this ruin my holiday but I know what Qantas is like and I should have expected it."

Qantas told the NZ Herald this afternoon it apologised for the disruption and would give passengers frequent flyer points.

"As gesture of thank you and goodwill, we will be giving passengers Qantas Frequent Flyer points."

The spokesman also said the plane had been checked by engineers and returned to service.