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Jetstar A320 makes U-turn to Brisbane due to ‘chemical smell’

written by Jake Nelson | May 24, 2023

Victor Pody shot aircraft including this Jetstar A320-200, VH-VFO.

A Jetstar A320-200 was forced to return to Brisbane on Tuesday due to reports of a “chemical smell” in the cabin.

VH-XNP (similar aircraft pictured) was en route to Townsville as flight JQ904, having departed Brisbane at 6:46am on 23 May, when it turned around due to the odd smell. The latter was later identified as hydraulic fluid from recent scheduled maintenance on the nine-year-old aircraft.

JQ904, carrying around 100 passengers, was the first flight for VH-XNP since 1 May, and the A320 has yet to take off on another scheduled flight at time of writing. The flight landed safely, and a replacement aircraft was organised for passengers that afternoon.

In a statement to News.com.au, Jetstar offered its apologies and said engineers will check over the aircraft before it returns to active service.

“We’re sorry for disrupting our customers’ travel plans after their flight to Townsville had to return to Brisbane due to a chemical smell in the cabin,” the airline said.


“Safety is always our top priority and pilots followed standard procedures with the flight landing normally.”

The incident is a headache for Jetstar amid the low-cost carrier’s push to improve its on-time reliability. According to BITRE data, Jetstar had the worst on-time performance across all participating domestic airlines in March 2023, with just 61.9 per cent of flights arriving on time and 59.6 per cent departing on time, while 7.1 per cent were cancelled altogether.

Jetstar’s chief operating officer, Matt Franzi, acknowledged the airline’s performance “hasn’t been up to scratch” and said Jetstar is hard at work improving punctuality and reliability while keeping airfares as low as possible.

“To improve our performance, we’re recruiting more airport staff, cabin crew and engineering team members and making changes to our check-in, bag drop and boarding times, to bring them in line with other low-cost carriers around the world,” he said.

“Everyone across the airline is committed to getting Jetstar to its best while delivering the lowest possible fares so our customers can fly to more places, more often.”

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