An anxious elderly flyer had to wait more than nine hours to get a cuppa and food after Air New Zealand ordered nearly a dozen passengers off an overloaded flight.
The 78-year-old Auckland woman was one of 11 Kiwis unexpectedly taken from the Brisbane-bound plane on Saturday afternoon and transferred to local quarantine facilities to await the next available flight.
There were hysterical scenes at Auckland Airport when screaming and upset passengers were told they would have to pay for their accommodation, meals and other costs in quarantine.
In an email to the Herald the daughter of the elderly traveller said the nine-hour ordeal was traumatic for her mum who was not a keen flyer at the best of times.
"It was after 9pm before she finally got to the hotel and 9.30 before she was given dinner. She was not even offered so much as a cup of tea or coffee. She is normally a very anxious person and is frightened of flying so the whole experience was quite traumatic...not helped by her being 78.
"She was quite frightened by the yelling and screaming of some of the people who were offloaded with her. Apparently an older male policeman sat and chatted to her and that was comforting."
Added her mum, "We were not given anything to eat or drink until just before we left the airport and that was a very small plastic container of water and either a tiny pack of chips or a bliss ball and we didn't get dinner until 9.30 and all meals were cold. It was a long time from check in at 12.30 until we got a cold meal at 9.30."
Air New Zealand staff told seated passengers they needed to reduce the number of people on board as the plane had a larger-than-expected payload. But because there were people on the same flight who had travelled from other parts of the world health officials decided those removed needed to stay in managed isolation or quarantine facilities in Auckland.
The woman's daughter said there appeared to be no system in place to sort out the debacle.
"What was annoying was that we were called by Air NZ staff and asked to go and collect her. My sister went out and waited and waited before being told that Mum would not be allowed home but was to be transferred to accommodation.
"Most concerning was that no one seemed to know what was happening...the Air NZ staff said once she was off the airline responsibility lay with the Government/Customs etc and they did not know what the plan was."
On a positive note the traveller, now holed up in a downtown Auckland hotel, said the Air New Zealand staff were as helpful as they could be and she was enjoying a nice sea view.
All going to plan she was due to board a flight tomorrow.
Other passengers told the Herald Saturday's episode was shambolic.
One woman heading to Australia for a funeral after losing a parent became hysterical. She was later given a seat on the affected flight.
Desiraye Solomon and her daughter, Delia Brown, were on the flight returning to the Gold Coast after visiting her father in Wellington who had suffered a heart attack.
They offered to get off the full flight after the captain advised passengers it was overweight and off-balance, but other passengers were randomly picked off a list, she said.
Solomon said other passengers told they had to leave included an elderly woman, another mother and daughter, a mother with a young child and a group of four male teenagers.
"Someone else came off the plane and she was hysterical and screaming and carrying on. Apparently her mother had died and she was going to the funeral. They let her back on.
"When we first got off the plane they told us we could ring our family to come and pick us up. The elderly lady was very distressed and crying," Solomon said.
Once the passengers got to the Customs hall, she said, a Customs officer turned up and took people's temperatures.
"Then someone came around and said 'what hotel would you like?' And we were like 'what do you mean?' And they said 'you will have to quarantine'. Then we were all yelling and carrying on and the police were called," Solomon said.
She said the police were liaising between the passengers and Air NZ who were "hiding behind the corner because they didn't want to deal with the hostility".
Air New Zealand apologised to the passengers for the inconvenience and said they were given wrong information about quarantine when they disembarked.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said because there were other people on the same flight who had travelled from other parts of the world on their way to Brisbane, the decision was made by health officials as a precaution for the 11 passengers to stay in managed isolation or quarantine facilities in Auckland until the next Brisbane flight on Tuesday.
"While the risk is minimal that one of the people would have contracted Covid-19 on the flight we need to act with caution as our borders are our first line of defence against Covid-19," the ministry said.
The Covid-19 All of Government Response Group also released a statement, saying the circumstances around the incident were unique and unexpected.
"While every effort was made to ensure those affected were kept informed, we appreciate some people and staff involved may have been initially uncertain as to what was happening."