Quake trapped couple billed for hotel room

An aerial view The Hotel Grand Chancellor in central Christchurch city. Photo / NZ Herald
An aerial view The Hotel Grand Chancellor in central Christchurch city. Photo / NZ Herald

Two guests trapped on the 22nd floor of Christchurch's Hotel Grand Chancellor and who had to smash down doors and brave collapsed staircases to escape following the February 22 earthquake, were later billed $300 for their stay.

The bill for two nights included an $18 parking fee for a car that took two months to recover.

The charge was later waived but the New Zealand man, who did not want to be named, told The Press he was still upset with the hotel.

"It was a pretty traumatic experience for us," the man said.

The couple have been unable to get an insurance payment for the $15,000 worth of luggage stuck in the hotel because their insurer says the belongings could still be recovered.

When the February 22 quake struck, the couple were watching a movie for which they were billed $15.20, in their 25th-floor room in the 26-storey hotel - the biggest building in Christchurch, which now has to be demolished.

They made it to the lobby of the 22nd floor with about a dozen other guests, where the stairs had collapsed.

After a large aftershock, one of the group pried open doors on the floor below to allow the remaining guests and staff to inch down the stairs one by one.

At the 14th floor they smashed a window and jumped on to an adjacent roof, where they were eventually rescued by a crane.

Grand Chancellor Australia and New Zealand group manager Frank Delli Cicchi said the bill was an oversight and the man - and any other guests trapped on February 22 - would not be expected to pay for their stay.

"The accountant wouldn't have realised that these people were stuck in the building," he said.

Mr Delli Cicchi said bills were only now being sent out because the company had only recently gained access to the accounts, which were trapped in another building in the city.

He did not know how many trapped guest had been sent bills.

However, guests who were not in the hotel when the quake struck were still expected to pay their bills, he said.

"They legitimately incurred costs."

- NZPA

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