John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Consumer Watchdog: Mum's surprise just wouldn't fly

Air NZ Eftpos policy strands student at airport

Olly Bennett would like an apology. Photo / Michael Craig
Olly Bennett would like an apology. Photo / Michael Craig

A student who wanted to pay a surprise visit to his mother was stranded at an airport after Air New Zealand refused to let him buy a ticket.

Olly Bennett, 19, was given the runaround at Auckland Airport when he was told he couldn't buy a standby ticket with his Eftpos card.

Air NZ said it had a consistent policy across the country of not being able to accept Eftpos payments for standby fares because some smaller airports did not have the facilities.

Bennett wanted to surprise his mum for her birthday in September and went to the airport to buy a last minute fare.

He had flown with Air NZ many times but this time he was told he couldn't pay with Eftpos. Over the next three hours the company also refused to accept his grandmother's credit card or a friend's debit card.

"After they told me I couldn't get on, I sat down in McDonald's in the domestic terminal.

I saw my friend go past. He offered to pay for me. But they couldn't accept his debit card. I even rung up my nana. She offered to pay online with her credit card. They wouldn't accept that either."

Bennett said there were no advertisements saying you couldn't use your Eftpos card. He had done it in the past. "They just switched it over and didn't tell anyone."

He was disappointed with the airline's failure to address his case directly or to apologise.

"A simple letter of apology would be nice, saying they stuffed up or could've dealt with it better."

An airline spokeswoman said standby fares had always required payment by debit or credit card as many regional airports did not have ticketing desks.

"Where this is the case, customers use our courtesy phone to call our contact centre and purchase their standby tickets over the phone. Obviously, credit or debit card is the only practical form of payment for this."

The airline said staff at some big airports with ticketing desks had accepted cash or Eftpos payments over the counter. "Unfortunately, this has led to confusion when the customer has been unable to use these forms of payment for their return journey."

Consumer NZ said there was little a customer could do.

"The Air NZ website does state that payment for standby fares is by valid debit or credit card only - but it's in small print at the end of a paragraph and it's easy to miss," consumer.org.nz reported. "We think Air NZ should make this condition much clearer on both its website and in its advertising. It should also make it clear that it doesn't accept Eftpos."

- Herald on Sunday

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