What should have been an encouraging sign of business bouncing back after the coronavirus turned into a fiasco for low-cost German airline Eurowings, as a plane was forced to turn back on arrival in Sardinia.

The first summer flight from Dusseldorf to the city of Olbia on the Mediterranean island "was told by air traffic control on approach to the destination airport that landing was not possible," a Eurowings spokeswoman told AFP today. 

A record of the Saturday trip available on flight tracking website Flightradar24 shows how the Airbus A320 descended no lower than 5,600 feet on arrival. 

The crew made a number of circuits just off the Sardinian coast before turning around for the two-hour trip back to Germany. 

Besides a handful of large airports in Rome and Florence, all Italian airports are in fact shut until June 3 at the earliest. 

"We have figured out in the mean time that there was a misunderstanding when putting together the relevant information for the flight," the Eurowings spokeswoman said. 

The press officer for the Lufthansa subsidiary added that "the situation at many European airports is very dynamic" with "operating times or closures often changed at short notice and daily changes to arrival restrictions". 

One minor relief for the no-frills airline: while it was obliged to re-book passengers from the trip to Sardinia onto other flights, only two were in fact on board.