Air NZ defends 'horrible' handling of stricken Tauranga flight

Air New Zealand has defended itself amid accusations the airline's "horrible" handling of a problematic landing left passengers in panic.

A landing gear defect saw the plane circle above Tauranga Airport for an hour and a half on Monday night, before it landed safely around 9pm.

Passengers have since complained they weren't told what was going on at the time, but a spokesperson for the airline told Newshub that's simply not true.

"In challenging situations such as this, the first obligation of the pilots is to ensure the continued safe operation of the aircraft as they work through the issue, often in consultation with operational or engineering support from technical experts on the ground," a spokesperson said.

"Despite what was a high workload in the cockpit, the pilots briefed passengers on two separate occasions."

But passenger John Hurihanganui told Newshub he was "disappointed" they weren't told exactly what the problem was.

"The captain would say on occasion 'yeah we're landing in 10 minutes'. And then 20 minutes would go by, we wouldn't hear a thing. People would call out from the floor - could the captain update us - but we never got an update. It was horrible.

"People started talking. People started getting a bit grumpy. I fly a lot and I've never experienced anything like it."

Passenger Abbe Honey echoed his claim, saying the pilots and crew failed to relay information to those on board.

"They don't want to tell us too much to worry us more. But then again they could have informed us a little bit more about what was going on. Because we went around about 10 times and only got told once."

The Air NZ spokesperson says pilots followed "standard operating procedure" to get the flight on the ground - and says afterwards, all passengers were invited to a "full debrief".

"Forty of the 50 passengers accepted this invitation. An Air New Zealand pilot... outlined the safety and engineering processes our pilots and crew followed as they prepared to land the aircraft and answered any questions the passengers had."

The problem turned out to be "a faulty indicator light associated with the status of the landing gear," the spokesperson said. A Customer Care team is following up with passengers on Tuesday.