Stranded passengers hit out at airline

By Imran Ali

9 comments
FRUSTRATED: Passenger Theresa Leslie travelled in a van arranged by Air New Zealand after she and others were bumped off their flight to Whangarei due to rain and flying restrictions. Photo / JOHN STONE
FRUSTRATED: Passenger Theresa Leslie travelled in a van arranged by Air New Zealand after she and others were bumped off their flight to Whangarei due to rain and flying restrictions. Photo / JOHN STONE

Irate passengers of an Air New Zealand flight bound for Whangarei have slammed the national carrier for accepting their bookings but bumping most of them - including an elderly couple - off the plane due to adverse weather conditions.

Seventeen passengers had booked on the Auckland to Whangarei flight on Sunday but only six were allowed to fly as rain, and wind speed and direction at their destination made landing difficult.

The airline announced in July it would start using larger, 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft for some flights to and from Whangarei Airport from August 12, after the Civil Aviation Authority issued new operating requirements at the airport.

Flight restrictions that came into effect on June 1 see passengers kicked off flights in wet weather so that planes can land on the runway.

Beechcraft aircraft now have to land further down the runway, so when it is wet, or there is no headwind, the planes need to have a lighter landing weight in order to stop in time.

Whangarei doctor Margy Pohl, who hired a taxi from Auckland with other passengers on Sunday, said Air New Zealand was being "obnoxious" by accepting full bookings on its 20-seater Beechcraft while knowing in advance what the weather would be like on flight day.

"Whangarei has showers 200 days a year. They take all your money, although the likelihood of the flight you're booked on actually going ahead or with a full load is slim.

"The ongoing sale of tickets for air travel which is, in all probability, quite unlikely to proceed as planned, is unprofessional and unacceptable to this community.

"Either don't use the Beechcraft or book only six passengers," she said.

Air New Zealand spokesman Andrew Aitken said rain and other factors such as wind speed and wind direction, which could not be accurately forecast ahead of travel time, resulted in the flight to Whangarei being unable to land with 17 passengers.

He said flight and accommodation arrangements for Ms Pohl were made at the airline's expense on Sunday for her to travel the next day but she decided to hire a car to Whangarei.

Mr Aitken said the airline's conditions of carriage allowed for alternative modes of transportation if air travel was not possible because of factors beyond Air New Zealand's control.

Another passenger, Theresa Leslie, travelled in a van arranged by Air New Zealand and questioned the criteria used to select those who boarded the plane.

"There was an elderly couple, who found it difficult to get in and out of the van we were in, and I thought they should have been allowed to get on the flight," she said.

Ms Leslie said she thought Air New Zealand would use a bigger plane or cancel the flight but it went ahead with the 20-seater Beechcraft.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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