I believe that there were three unsuccessful attempts to get to SFO for all the pax on the flight.
At one stage there were 3 UA 744s in AKL:
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"Melbourne Age" Breaking News
Third time unlucky as UA jet calls another emergency
AUCKLAND, May 3 AFP|Published: Friday May 3, 8:28 PM
A United Airlines Boeing 747 that was involved in a mid-air drama earlier this week was today forced to make an emergency landing here with malfunctioning flaps.
For many of the passengers it was a case of third time unlucky.
Late on Wednesday, the aircraft was flying from Sydney to San Francisco when it struck severe turbulence over Tonga, injuring seven people. It made an emergency landing in Auckland after suffering what one passenger described as "an earthquake in the air".
Many of the passengers on that flight were to have flown out today on the same aircraft, but later in the evening were again back in Auckland.
An American businessman said the plane had been in the air only 90 minutes out of Auckland in its third attempt to get to San Francisco, when the captain announced it was losing air pressure and would have to turn back.
The captain also announced the aircraft's flaps were possibly malfunctioning and emergency vehicles would be on the tarmac to greet the plane as it landed at Auckland.
The businessman, who did not want to be named because he was negotiating compensation with United Airlines, said the flight to San Francisco was rescheduled for 2:30pm yesterday (1230 AEST) but was delayed until 6:30pm (1630 AEST).
After passengers climbed aboard, they had to wait on the tarmac for four hours before that flight too was abandoned.
"The captain said they had a strange noise on the plane so we cleared customs for a second time and went back to the hotel," he said.
"Airline staff said 'oh this is unprecedented, it's terrible... we have a new plane for you' (for Friday's flight).
"But it wasn't, it was the same plane and the flight attendant acknowledged that."
Passengers returned to the airport this morning for their third attempt to get to San Francisco. Many were feeling relaxed as the plane successfully took off but things soon went wrong.
The captain said there was a serious mechanical problem, the plane was losing air pressure and needed to turn back to Auckland.
He said a related problem meant the flaps, which help the plane land, might not be operating and the plane needed to go to "secondary power".
While flight attendants moved to the exit rows, the captain told passengers not to be alarmed.
But the businessman said: "Everyone's pretty tense, my wife was freaking out. She was told initially it wasn't the same (plane) so she was upset it was.
"After we landed the captain said if we'd gone any further it would have been a big problem."
The passengers were at first incredulous, the businessman said, and half the passengers scheduled to reboard a United Airlines flight last night were refusing to get back on the plane.
He said it should not have been the same plane that was involved in the turbulence and the situation was "beyond a joke".
Many of the people on board the flight had evidence of their injuries from the Wednesday night flight, including neck braces.
By Michael Field