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Long-haul New Zealand-China flight forced back mid-flight

An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner plane taxis at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago Illinois on Nov 30 2018

In April 2018 the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) of China ordered a number of global airlines to change how Taiwan was described on their websites and promotional material. "A permitting issue, supposedly", one passenger, Eric Hundman, told the New Zealand Herald.

"This issue relates to a particular aircraft which is not yet certified to operate to China but was unfortunately assigned to operate our Shanghai flight on Saturday night", the spokesperson said. "As you were advised onboard, the aircraft operating your flight did not have regulatory approval to land in China and was required to return to Auckland", the message from the airline said.

The 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was meant to be launched with great fanfare at Wellington's Te Papa museum next week, but that has been postponed by China.

In a statement late on Sunday, China's civil aviation regulator quoted the airline as having said the issue was due to "temporary improper allocation of the aircraft".

'New Zealand's relationship with China is deteriorating, ' says Simon Bridges.The National Party leader's comments comes as Air NZ flight was denied entry into China on February 10.

Business community and pundits are screaming there is no connection whatsoever between China turning back an Air NZ flight and the wider geopolitical tensions - yet breaking news now is China is strangling off diplomatic ties...

"We've not received any communication of this nature", an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said at the time. "We need to know what has happened here".

"In the past New Zealand has enjoyed a consensus approach to foreign policy, a unified front, that's in New Zealand's best interests".

"Our relationship with China is a complex relationship and sometimes it will have its challenges", Ardern told TVNZ in an interview.

As to when she would be visiting Beijing, Ardern failed to give a specific date.

New Zealand political journalist Richard Harman speculated on his website Politik that the rejection of flight NZ289 was China reacting to New Zealand's decision to ban Chinese telco Huawei from supplying 5G to New Zealand telco Spark.

Ardern was scheduled to visit China early this year but the invitation has been put on hold.

The exhibition - featuring eight warriors standing 180 cm tall, and two full-size horses from the terracotta army, as well as two half-size replica bronze horse-drawn chariots - opened to the public on December 15 in the run-up to the beginning of 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.