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Air NZ standby complaint

A student was unable to pay for a standby airfare after cash and eftpos were refused.

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In mid-September tertiary student Olly Bennett made a trip to Auckland airport. He’d heard about an Air New Zealand standby fare to Wellington and he wanted to buy a ticket so he could surprise his mum on her birthday. But it was Olly who got the surprise – and not a pleasant one.

Ten days earlier he’d made the same trip and bought his ticket by eftpos. But this time he was told that Air New Zealand's rules had changed: credit or debit cards were the sole forms of payment that could be accepted.

Olly only had eftpos. When he explained this to the sales assistant he was told that if he wanted the ticket he'd have to get a temporary credit card from a post office or from Travelex.

After finding out at Travelex that the minimum spend on a temporary credit card was $250 – more than he could afford – Olly returned to the counter. He suggested that his nana could pay for the ticket over the phone with her credit card (she knew Olly wanted to surprise his mum with a visit); but the sales assistant said the card had to be physically present for the transaction to be accepted.

A friend then offered to pay for Olly’s ticket with a debit card but Air New Zealand said the card wouldn’t work. (Two other passengers in the queue wanting to pay for their tickets by debit card had the same problem.) After spending $26 on a bus to the airport and waiting for three hours to see five planes fly to Wellington without him, Olly returned to his flat frustrated.

Terms and conditions

Air New Zealand told us the terms and conditions for stand-by fares have always required payment by debit or credit card only. This is because some smaller regional airports don't have ticketing desks and so tickets must be purchased over the phone from a contact centre (the airline provides a courtesy freephone at airports where this is the case).

However, some staff at larger airports have tried to help customers who didn't know about this condition, by allowing cash or eftpos payments – only to cause confusion when customers are unable to use these forms of payment on a flight from a smaller airport.

But this doesn't explain why Olly was unable to purchase a ticket through his nana’s credit card or why Air New Zealand’s payment system couldn’t accept some debit cards.

Air New Zealand told us it couldn’t comment on his particular case. And Ollie hasn’t received any apology or communication from Air New Zealand.

We say

  • The Air New Zealand 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. We think Air New Zealand 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.
  • We're extremely disappointed at Air New Zealand's “no comment” reaction to the incident.

Disclosure: Olly is the son of a Consumer staff member.