Air NZ withdrawal hurts travellers

By Liz Wylie

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ISLAND BOUND: Traveller Bob Harris has sorted his itinerary but says others may need to check their flight schedules.PHOTO/BEVAN CONLEY
ISLAND BOUND: Traveller Bob Harris has sorted his itinerary but says others may need to check their flight schedules.PHOTO/BEVAN CONLEY

Whanganui man Bob Harris and his partner will now have an added stopover in Palmerston North as part of their Rarotongan holiday in August.

The couple had originally booked with Air New Zealand to fly directly from Whanganui to Auckland, where their bags would be transferred to the international flight.

Since they made the booking, Air New Zealand has announced its withdrawal from Whanganui airport and Air Chathams will take over from August 1.

"Air Chathams could still fly us to Auckland on the same date, but we would have to collect our luggage and check in for the flight to Rarotonga ourselves, and we wouldn't have enough time for that," said Mr Harris.

After weighing up options such as taking a bus to Auckland the day before the international flight, the couple have decided to spend a night in Palmerston North before catching an Air New Zealand flight early the next morning.

"Fortunately, we have travel insurance and the company have agreed to reimburse us for the cost of travel to Palmerston North and our accommodation there."

Although Mr Harris has resolved his problem, there are other Whanganui people who are similarly affected.

Air Chathams chief executive Craig Emeny said the baggage transfer was something the airline would like to sort out.

"We know that some people have been affected and we want to do the best job we can for Whanganui people."

The airline has just bought Kiwi Regional Airlines' Saab 340A, and Mr Emeny said the 34-seater plane will hopefully encourage more people to travel from Whanganui.

Whanganui travel agents Harvey World Travel and the Flight Centre have been dealing with some passengers who have been affected by the airline change.

Flight Centre NZ general retail manager Sue Matson said they have a number of customers due to be flying the Auckland/Whanganui route after August 1.

"Our travel experts are working closely with them to provide support and advice and explore alternative travel options where necessary," she said.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said all customers have the option of departing from Palmerston North.

"That will allow them to check their luggage through to any of our domestic or international destinations," she said.

She said if that was not suitable, Air New Zealand would offer customers a full refund of their original ticket price.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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