A woman is urging airlines to be more compassionate after being refused a refund for cancelled flights despite telling staff a credit note would be useless as her children were too young for mandatory vaccinations.
Hastings woman Cecelia Chase booked flights in August through Air New Zealand for herself and her daughters aged 11 and 6 to see her mum in Rarotonga.
The tickets were booked and paid for before vaccination was a requirement for flights.
The flights were cancelled in November and Chase was offered a credit note for the $2200 flights.
Air New Zealand stipulated the flights needed to be booked within the year and that all ticket holders needed to be vaccinated.
Chase is double vaccinated but her oldest daughter can only be vaccinated when she turns 12 in February and her youngest is only 6.
"I went back to them and asked for a refund because one of my girls was too young to be vaccinated within the year so we couldn't use the credit note," Chase said.
"I spent three hours on hold and in the end I emailed and they said they could not offer me a refund because I didn't meet the criteria for compassionate grounds or financial hardship."
Chase was disappointed it was only after the Herald called Air New Zealand this week about the situation that she was offered a refund.
"I got an email that afternoon saying I now qualified under compassionate grounds but I would have liked to have seen that compassion at the start.
"It shouldn't take that much effort for them to do something that should just be offered immediately if something is completely out of your control."
Chase, a solo-mum on one income, said she had used all of her savings to buy the tickets so she and her daughters could spend time with family in Arorangi.
"Airlines should realise every dollar counts in households at the moment and people shouldn't have to go back and forth to get money back."
"My mental health has suffered in the past year and it has been hard on my daughters so I needed to spend some time with family, healing and having a reset," she said.
Chase said the refund meant she could now treat her daughters to something here in New Zealand or save the money to travel at a much later date.
She hoped Air New Zealand went back and offered refunds to other families who had children too young to vaccinate.
There were hundreds of others in similar situations, Chase said.
"A lot of the people with families in Rarotonga have young children and I have heard about so many in the same situation as me," she said.
Air New Zealand said it had set up a dedicated compassionate refunds team in April to deal with refund requests.
A spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said the team looks at requests on a "case-by-case" basis.
In Chase's case, the spokeswoman said: "on looking again at this customer's request, we can confirm a refund has been given".
Air New Zealand had updated its website so people booking flights to the Cook Islands were informed of vaccination requirements.