Sixty Jetstar passengers who touched down after a delayed flight to Christchurch faced a further 24-hour luggage delay after their bags were bumped off the plane to make room for military equipment.
The passengers only found out their luggage was still in Sydney after they had disembarked and were waiting at the baggage claim area in Christchurch Airport early yesterday morning.
It is understood the request was from the Australian Defence Force.
A Jetstar spokesman said the luggage was removed after the airline received a ''special request''.
''We were requested to take military personnel from Sydney to Christchurch and the military bags were heavier than the passenger bags.''
One passenger, who did not want to be named, said her bags were full of Christmas presents.
Another family had their visas in their luggage and were not even allowed to leave the airport, The Press understands.
Passenger Brent Hole, who lives in Australia, said he and his partner realised a lot of couples only had one suitcase come through on the conveyor belt shortly after they landed.
''My partner got her suitcase. We were told that probably half the luggage couldn't get put on the plane. The flight was one hour late and by the time we got out it was 3.30am and the taxis weren't running,'' he said.
Christchurch Airport Motel manager John Eskett heard about the delayed luggage saga because ''people were telling me stories of people at the airport with babies and no infant formula and nappies''.
One passenger, Dixie Elliot, was still waiting on her suitcase to be delivered at 3pm today.
Jetstar ''was not at liberty'' to discuss the nature of the military request but a spokesman said it was requested under ''unusual circumstances''.
The airline had to decide between off-loading the 60 passengers and their bags or just unloading the bags and sending them to Christchurch on a different flight, he said.
It decided to place the bags on the next flight to Christchurch and then courier the bags out to the passengers, he said.
Of the 60 bags, five were yet to be delivered to passengers at 3pm today.
Jetstar apologised for the inconvenience and said it would not have happened in different circumstances.
The Australian Defence Force could not be reached for comment today.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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