Plane prang expected to cost $3m

Planes collide at Melbourne Airport

Passengers forced to evacuate after a Virgin flight reversed into a parked Jetstar plane at Melbourne Airport.

It's a sour start to any holiday: backing up the vehicle only to prang into another with the resulting bill - $3 million.

That's how a Virgin Australia planeload of 175 passengers bound for Maroochydore started their journey when the plane was manoeuvred out of its gate and collided with an empty Jetstar plane on Saturday morning.

Luckily for the passengers, they are not footing the bill.

The incident occurred at Melbourne Airport when the Virgin jet was being pushed back on the tarmac in preparation for takeoff about 9.30am.

Paul Cousins, president of the engineers' union, said the Virgin aircraft was pushed back to such an extent that the end of its left-hand wing cut off the tail cone of the Jetstar A320. And, mirroring a conversation regularly heard in car parks across the world, Jetstar and Virgin Australia had two versions of events.

A Jetstar statement said its aircraft was stationary when the collision occurred. Virgin initially reported that both planes were moving but stressed it was still investigating.

Mr Cousins estimated the damage bill to be up to $3 million.

''They were very lucky that the [Virgin plane's] winglet did not go into the auxiliary power unit, which is a small jet engine that runs in the back of the aircraft,'' Mr Cousins said.

''It could have caused that engine to rupture … bits and pieces could have come out it and gone flying everywhere.''

The Jetstar aircraft, which had just landed from Sydney, had pulled up just short of the terminal gate. It is understood it only had flight crew on board.

Virgin Australia spokesman Nathan Scholz confirmed that engineers were assessing damage to its Boeing 737-800, which appeared to have sustained ''minor damage'' to its wing tip. He said the damage bill would not be known until the plane was moved to a hangar for assessment by engineers.

The flight had 175 passengers, four cabin and two pilot crew on board.

No one was injured in the incident and passengers were delayed nearly five hours while a new plane was found on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Cousins said the damage to the Jetstar aircraft was significant, and it was likely to be grounded for several days.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Melbourne Airport, Virgin Australia and Jetstar are all investigating the crash. The collision occurred in an area between the domestic and international terminals.