New Zealander on AirAsia Philippines flight 'very scared' after plane turns around over technical issue

A New Zealander on an AirAsia flight this week said he feared for his life when the plane unexpectedly turned around to return to the airport it had just departed from.

The passenger supplied Newshub with a video they took onboard of the incident, in which he says: "I think we're going to crash! I think we're going down!"

AirAsia Philippines has confirmed that flight Z2 139 from Guangzhou to Manila encountered a "minor technical issue" on Monday, December 11.

The passenger became alarmed by what he believed was an emergency message from the pilot.

"At this time, remove all sharp objects, dentures, spectacles and high heel shoes. Stow these items in the seat pocket or overhead bins. Cabin crew: assist passengers," the captain says in the video.

However, AirAsia Philippines said it was not an emergency situation, no mayday call was issued and the captain's announcement was standard procedure for such a technical issue.

"As a precautionary measure in view of safety, the flight deck crew decided to return to its airport of origin and safely landed at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. Thereafter, aircraft mechanics and engineers performed thorough non-scheduled maintenance checks with the aircraft," the airline said in a statement to Newshub.

"After satisfying mandatory checks, Z2 139 again departed Guangzhou and landed without incident in Manilla."

After the Kiwi passenger described the situation as "very scary" and said others on the flight were "terrified", the airline said it is looking into how it announces such situations in the future.

"The safety of our passengers and crew was not at risk, announcements were made as precautionary measures. We are reviewing the announcements to ensure they are appropriate for this situation moving forward," said AirAsia Philippines.

The airline's communications & public affairs head and first officer Steve Dailisan added that customers on the plane were offered alternative travel options rather than continuing on the delayed flight.

"Safety of our guests and crew is always our top priority and was never at risk. While we consider this as an isolated case, rest assured that our pilots and cabin crew are highly trained to deal with these types of situations," said Dailisan.

"All 95 passengers were provided with necessary assistance such as food, accommodation and move flight options as mandated by the regulatory authorities."

It is relatively common for commercial passenger flights to turn back to their point of departure if they encounter an issue that could potentially be unsafe.

International Air New Zealand flights, for example, occasionally have to turn around and return to Aotearoa over technical issues or lightning strikes.