A New Zealand man who learned of his father's death while holidaying in the US was told by Air New Zealand he would have to pay US$2300 (NZ$2950) to get an earlier flight home in time to bury his father.
Despite he and friends making upwards of 100 phone calls to various people, it was not until the airline was contacted by media that it found Picton man Javas Carter a seat on an earlier flight home.
Mr Carter, 23, was in Los Angeles on holiday this week when he found out via social networking site Facebook that his father, Arataki, had passed away.
His return flight to New Zealand was originally scheduled for Sunday night (NZT) but that was too late to make sure he would be able to attend the funeral.
He immediately contacted Air New Zealand but was told there was nothing they could do because the flight had been booked using United Airlines air points
"Both the airlines tried to blame each other. Air New Zealand were saying 'you need to call United' and United would say 'no, you need to call Air New Zealand'," Mr Javas said.
"They never gave me an answer, they just directed me to other people. All I wanted to do was get home as soon as I could. I'm sure they hear excuses all the time but it was just disgusting and appalling.
"Can't they just be human for a moment and try to comprehend a certain situation? I'm 23 years old and my dad passed away yesterday morning and I'm just trying to get home as fast as I can.
An American friend, lawyer Joseph Soldis, also stepped in to try and help. He said he had confirmed that the airline had empty seats on flights to New Zealand.
"I spent nearly five hours on the phone trying to convince Air New Zealand to allow him to fly home, but they refused. They said that they only have so many seats available at the fare he booked, and rather than let him fly in an empty seat and get home to his family, they flew the plane with empty seats."
Mr Soldis said Mr Javas was told that if he wanted to get on an earlier flight home he would have to pay US$2300 for a new ticket.
"Javas is very upset, crying, and feels trapped while his family grieves and prepares for his father's funeral - without him."
Within an hour of APNZ contacting an Air New Zealand representatives in New Zealand this afternoon, Mr Carter was booked on an earlier flight, meaning he would be home in time for his father's funeral early next week.
Air New Zealand did not answer questions but confirmed that the airline did have a bereavement policy.
It reiterated that Mr Carter was a United Airlines customer.
Mr Carter said he was again contacted by Air New Zealand, which told him he should not talk about the situation to the media.
Mr Carter had not ruled out taking legal action against both Air New Zealand and United Airlines.
- APNZBy Matthew Theunissen Email Matthew