A mother and her two young children were booted off a Jetstar flight because her toddler-aged son did not have shoes on.
A witness says Jetstar staff at Queenstown Airport still refused to let them on board despite another passenger giving a pair of shoes to the young boy.
However, Jetstar says the passenger who offered the shoes quickly retracted it after learning the child would have to wear them for the duration of the flight and disembarking the plane.
Wairarapa woman Isobel Mebus was left shocked and angry after witnessing the incident about 4pm yesterday.
Mebus said she was waiting to board her Air NZ flight to Wellington when she noticed the woman come out from the gate crying.
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"There was an older Samoan couple behind me and she was explaining to them that she wasn't allowed on the flight because her son didn't have shoes on.
"So people started rallying around and the older couple said, 'Well we'll just go and buy him some shoes' because the Mum didn't have any money on her.
"Then a woman passenger came up with a pair of shoes and put them on the boy and said, 'There you go' and they still wouldn't let him on."
Mebus said the Jetstar staff continued to refuse to let the young family on board, and instead ordered their baggage off the plane which caused delays and disruption to countless other passengers waiting to fly out of Queenstown.
She said she couldn't believe what she was witnessing.
"She was really beside herself and crying and it was really awful. I was furious.
"The thing is, they did resolve the issue because the child did have shoes on but were still turned away."
Jetstar's terms and conditions state they have the right to refuse a passenger if they are not wearing footwear.
Air NZ online conditions state the same.
However, Mebus said she couldn't understand why the Jetstar staff were being so stubborn.
"First of all it was a little boy and other passengers had offered to carry him on. He was only like 4 or 3, and they just didn't even try to resolve it, they just turned the poor woman away after having paid for her flight."
Mebus said she felt sorry for the woman and was interested to know what happened to her as the last she saw, the woman was in tears leaving the gate.
"I did think to catch her name but she was so upset."
Adding to the incident was the delay to the other flights, including Mebus' flight to Wellington which was held up for 21 minutes, as the family's luggage was taken off.
"It was just absolutely ludicrous. They could have let them on so easily because they were given shoes.
"All they could say was, 'We don't make the rules'."
Mebus said the incident left her "bloody angry".
"I was really furious, I just thought it was outrageous to treat someone like that ... she was just stranded.
"It's just decency. You work things out with people. It was awful."
Ground staff held up the flight for 21 minutes as they tried to get the issue sorted.
A Jetstar spokesman confirmed the family of three were unable to board yesterday's flight due to the son not having any shoes.
Another passenger offered shoes - which were too big - for the boy but then retracted his offer because he would have to wait for them on landing.
The company's conditions of carriage state that passengers can't fly without footwear.
The spokesman said the family stayed another night in Queenstown with relatives before being put on another flight to Auckland this morning, at the airline's expense.