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Qantas plane forced to turn back mid-flight on New Year's Day

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A Qantas flight to Manila was forced to turn around and head back to Sydney three hours into its journey on New Year's Day after a technical issue led to a closure of airspace above the Philippines.

The QF19 flight took off from Sydney around 12.30pm on Sunday and was one of nearly 300 flights to the country affected by the five-hour airspace closure.

A spokesperson for Qantas said the plane refuelled in Sydney and flew out again on Sunday evening, arriving in Manila early today at around 7am (AEDT).

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All up, more than 65,000 passengers had their flights either delayed, diverted or cancelled as a result of the airspace closure, which was caused by a power outage.

Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista in an evening news conference apologised for the inconvenience and said authorities are working to assist all affected passengers.

Bautista said the problem started in the morning, when the Air Traffic Management Centre, which oversees all flights in Philippine airspace, lost communication, radio, radar, and internet because of the power outage.

The air traffic system was restored in late afternoon and flights resumed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

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Officials said they requested airlines to mount more flights and to upgrade to more wide-body planes to accommodate more passengers, and that full recovery is expected after 72 hours.

Some travellers were outraged, among them tycoon Manny Pangilinan, chairman of the telecommunication company PLDT, who said he was on his way to Manila from Tokyo when the outage happened.

"We're told radar and navigation facilities at NAIA down. I was on my way home (from) Tokyo – 3 hours into the flight, but had to return to Haneda. 6 hours of useless flying but inconvenience to travellers and losses to tourism and business are horrendous," he tweeted.



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