The travel industry is traditionally reluctant to discuss the impact of tragic events on business, but forward bookings are believed to be running at around 20 percent below expected levels.

Johannesburg - A Cathay Pacific Airways' Boeing 747 destined for Hong Kong made an unexpected landing at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg at the weekend after experiencing a bird strike, the airline said on Monday.

“Shortly after take-off, the aircraft encountered a multiple bird strike. As a precautionary measure, the captain (pilot) took the decision to return to (the airport),” Cathay Pacific South Africa's spokesperson Sharon Chen said in a statement.

Shortly before landing, the plane dumped some of its fuel to ensure an appropriate landing weight.

The plane landed just before 2pm on Sunday. It had taken off at 12.41pm.

“All passengers and crew members aboard the aircraft were safe, without any reports of injury,” Chen said.

The passengers were re-booked for a flight on Monday. Accommodation was also provided overnight.

Beeld newspaper reported that people on the East Rand could see smoke on the left wing of the plane and that the aircraft dumped its fuel over Tembisa.

Chen said the dumping of the fuel was co-ordinated with air traffic control authorities.

“... Certain airspace is assigned for fuel jettison. It is accomplished at a high enough altitude where the fuel will dissipate before reaching the ground”.

She said engineers were inspecting the aircraft to find out whether the bird strike had damaged the engines or aircraft. - Sapa