Passengers on a Melbourne-bound flight from Christchurch spent about three-and-a-half hours in the sky only to remain on this side of the Tasman as a result of a mechanical issue.

Qantas flight QF132 left at about 6:13am on Thursday and turned around nearly an hour and a half later, when it began heading north, a FlightRadar24 map shows.

At about 7:50am, the Boeing 737-838 began circling just south of Raglan at less than half its top speed earlier in the flight. The circling continued for about 25 minutes, eventually widening, before the plane carried on to Auckland, where it landed safely just after 9:40am.

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The flight from Christchurch to Melbourne typically takes about three-and-a-half hours.

Stuff understands the flight diverted to Auckland as a precautionary measure to check the mechanical issue.

The aircraft has been inspected by engineers and passengers are set to depart on the same plane on Thursday afternoon.