German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock cancels flight to Australia after plane issues at Abu Dhabi: Carrier is forced to dump 160,000 litres of fuel in the air

The German Foreign Minister embarrassingly had to abandon a trip to Australia when her ageing VIP aircraft suffered repeated mechanical failures meaning it had to dump almost two full tanks of fuel into the atmosphere.

Annalena Baerbock, who is a Greens member of the ruling three-party coalition, was twice turned back in mid-air after her government A340 failed to retract landing flaps shortly after taking off from Abu Dhabi for Australia last Monday and Tuesday. 

German journalist Patrick Deikmann, who was part of the entourage, stated the plane had tried to take off three times from Abu Dhabi, where the aircraft landed to refuel, in a debacle he simply labelled as ’embarrassing’.

On the two occasions the plane took off, the plane encountered problems with the retraction of the landing flaps and meant the plane had to be landed quickly.

The aircraft was too heavy to land back in Abu Dhabi safely until around 80,000 litres of fuel was jettisoned on each occasion.

Ms Baerbock, who has touted banning Germans from domestic flights to lower CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, expressed her frustration on social media site Twitter – which has now been rebranded as X.

German Foreign Minister and a Greens MP Annalena Baerbock (pictured centre) was forced to abandon a trip to Australia when her VIP aircraft suffered technical failures 

‘We have tried everything: unfortunately it is logistically impossible to continue my Indo-Pacific trip without the defective plane,’ she wrote. 

‘This is more than annoying. There are few countries that are so geographically far away and at the same time so close to us as Australia and New Zealand.

‘Although both countries are literally on the other side of the world from our perspective, freedom and democracy are part of our common DNA.’

Foreign Minister Penny Wong replied that she ‘shared in Ms Baerbock’s disappointment’.

 Australia and Germany are aligned in values and aspiration,’ Senator Wong wrote.

‘We have much more to do together. We will see you next time.’

Ms Baerbock, who caught a commercial flight back to Germany from Abu Dhabi, had been set to meet Senaor Wong, attend Wednesday’s Matildas vs Lionesses women’s soccer World Cup clash in Sydney and speak at the Lowy Institute. 

Ms Baerbock said the failure of her VIP plane to make it to Australia was 'more than annoying'

Ms Baerbock said the failure of her VIP plane to make it to Australia was ‘more than annoying’

She was also set to preside over the handing over of First Nations’ artefacts, including a spear, a fishing net and two smaller throwing sticks or clubs that had been housed in Leipzig’s Grassi Museum to the Kaurna people in Canberra.

Wall Street Journal correspondent Bojan Pancevski said the trip was designed to showcase Berlin’s major policy shift in terms of containing China and engagement in the Indo-Pacific.

‘It was planned for nearly a year,’ he wrote on X.

‘It was designed to demonstrate a new resolve. All of that foiled by a faulty plane.’

He said Ms Baerbock would attempt to ‘redo’ the trip soon. 

Berlin-based Thorsten Benner from the Global Public Policy Institute was also in the travelling party.

‘All those who experienced the German FM during the trip got a clear message: this was a trip that was very important for her and close to her heart,’ he said.

‘To say “thank you” to Australia and New Zealand for their support for Ukraine, and to signal Germany’s commitment to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, and to cooperate with Australia and also Pacific Island states on key issues such as dealing with China, critical resources, climate and the energy transition.

‘Baerbock tried everything to make the trip happen … but the stars weren’t aligned in the end.’

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed her disappointment at the aborted visit on social media

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed her disappointment at the aborted visit on social media

‘However embarrassing the disaster with the government plane is for Germany, it will not change Baerbock’s personal and her government’s deepening cooperation with the Indo-Pacific region, and Australia in particular.’

The A340 Ms Baerbock was on is over 20 years old and was transferred from Germany’s national airline Deutsche Lufthansa more than a decade ago for use by VIPs.

It previously caused red faces for the German government when it was was forced back to to Cologne, delaying the arrival of former chancellor Angela Merkel at a G20 meetings in Buenos Aires.

The German government has since ordered two newer Airbus A350s but apparently neither was available for Ms Baerbock’s trip.

In the wake of the failure to make the Australian trip the Luftwaffe announced  immediately retiring the two remaining A340s.