Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Jetstar Airways fined for ignoring orders, letting deportee fly

Jetstar Airways was convicted and fined $12,000 at Manukau District Court today for failing to comply with the Immigration Act 2009. Photo / iStock
Jetstar Airways was convicted and fined $12,000 at Manukau District Court today for failing to comply with the Immigration Act 2009. Photo / iStock

Jetstar has been fined $12,000 for allowing a deported passenger on a flight back to New Zealand despite being told three times not to let him onboard.

Jetstar Airways was convicted and fined $12,000 at Manukau District Court today for failing to comply with the Immigration Act 2009. The airline entered a guilty plea at an earlier hearing.

A Jetstar spokesperson said it accepted the court decision and had already made operational improvements which had reduced the number of infringements it had received.

A Chilean passenger attempted to board a Jetstar flight from Bangkok Airport in June 2014.

The check-in agent typing the passenger's name into Immigration New Zealand's Advance Passenger Processing system three times and each time was given a 'do not board' directive.

The agent then put in the incorrect spelling of the name in the system, which returned a directive to board without an outward ticket and he boarded the plane.

Immigration New Zealand national manager for border Senta Jehle said it was a serious issue as the passenger had been deported earlier in 2014 and banned from returning to New Zealand for five years. The passenger was made to leave the country the next day.

"An alert was in place to prevent him from travelling to New Zealand and the airline totally ignored the alert and the instruction from Immigration New Zealand," Ms Jehle said.

"Immigration New Zealand takes this type of offending very seriously as airlines have a crucial role to play in maintaining the integrity of New Zealand's immigration system and keeping the border secure. We work very closely with airlines to help this happen and it's very disappointing that we've had no alternative in this case but to take prosecution action."

This is the second time Jetstar has been prosecuted for not meeting its requirements under the Immigration Act. The previous prosecution was for ignoring a 'do no board directive' and allowing a visa-required person to board by changing their nationality in the system to show that they came from a visa-waiver country.

Jetstar was also issued with 339 infringement notices between July 2012 and February 2016 for breaching the Immigration Act, including 14 in relation to failing to comply with a 'do not board' directive.

But Jetstar said an internal investigation showed it was an "inadvertent operator mistake" in Bangkok and compliance programmes had been put in place to stop it happening again.

"We'll continue to focus on training and process improvements to further reduce any risk of not complying with immigration laws," the spokesperson said.

Immigration New Zealand decides to prosecute when there appears to have been a deliberate attempt to defy the Advance Passenger Processing boarding directives.

The maximum sentence for breaching the act is a fine of $50,000.

- NZ Herald

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