August 2022

Air NZ downgrades a honeymoon

Air New Zealand overbooks an aircraft and downgrades a Consumer staff member from business class.

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George V.
09 Aug 2022
Consumer to the rescue.

Air NZ cancelled my flight to Australia which I had booked through the online booking service, Edreams.
When I contacted Edreams they said they were waiting for the refund from Air NZ.
Then I contacted Air NZ and they referred me to Edreams.
After waiting for more than 3 months I asked Consumer to help. They wrote to Air NZ and within a few weeks I got my refund.
Thank you, Consumer.
Now I have a problem with JetStar. Their flight got delayed. So I missed my connecting flight in Australia. They are supposed to refund my taxi expenses.
On the JetStar website there is no email contact.
After waiting for about half an hour for a human being, I gave up. I have again written to Consumer for help.
Airlines make it very difficult to contact them when we try to get a legitimate refund.
International travel these days is very difficult indeed.

Michael B.
09 Aug 2022
Echoes of Fair Go

Whilst I understand David C's concern as to whether James article should have been published (slightly albeit understandably emotive rather than the usual objectivity, and with all due respect why should a Consumer writer necessarily get preferential treatment because of his job etc.) I personally think that on balance it is extremely timely and pertinent, especially in light of last nights (Monday 8th Aug) TVNZ 'Fair Go' article on the Mother and Son who got completely bumped from a flight to Queenstown at the start of their Holiday with no expected seats for days.

Without re-telling that worthy piece of Journalism, in which 'Consumer' features, it is quite apparent that Air NZ has some way to go to get back to "the good old days" - e.g. around the early 2000's when my family arrived at LAX for the last flight home after a long holiday only to find that the flight had been cancelled.
When we explained our need to get back to Auckland to meet connecting regional flights, work commitments, etc. etc. the Air NZ ground staff there could not have been more helpful in arranging seats on a "partner Airline" via Melbourne that still got us there on time at no extra cost.
It is true that Air travel has been served a severe challenge over the past 2 years but surely premium service like that should be the answer to retaining/regaining loyal customers, not the all too frequent recent tales to the contrary.

Until these 'happy times' return, perhaps Consumer may wish to publish a list, as it did on Fair Go, specifying exactly what our rights are under CAA rules &/or the Fair Trading Act and how these pieces of legislation affect Airlines obligations to compensate. Just in case the airlines aren't as forthcoming ;-)

Frank - Consumer staff
10 Aug 2022
Re: Echoes of Fair Go

Hi Michael, you can find our guide to your rights if your flight is delayed or cancelled here: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/your-rights-if-your-flight-is-delayed-or-cancelled

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff

David C.
09 Aug 2022
Does personal experience have a place in an article about a company?

Maybe not, as it reads like an entirely justifiably annoyed letter to the editor, or something for the comments field under a balanced article. Consumer seems to be losing it's balanced and analytical direction, and this article is emblematic of that.

All that said, I used to fly internationally and domestically a great deal, and while front line Air NZ staff were usually pretty helpful, the management policy of charging for every tiny thing, the marketing practices of slicing and dicing fare types to paper-thinness to maximise profit, and being treated as a cash-generating commodity with as much say as the sheep in a stock truck, have become ever more oppressive and odious.

I generally avoid flying these days, simply because it has all become so unpleasant and down-market.

Allan
08 Aug 2022
Disappointed

I understand & accept that James was upset that he was downgraded, but his very emotive writing and his stated public display of anger are not what Consumer should be printing.
Did the staff at AirNZ get it wrong? Yes, and the company have apologised for the error made by the staff and attempted to compensate him.
Were James’ reactions to the errors inappropriate? Mostly, yes.
Was Consumer correct to print the article? You decide.
There should be no place for personal opinion in your magazine. An organisation is only as good as it's employees.
It raises the question as whether any of your articles can be relied on as factual and unbiased.

Allan W

Grant J.
08 Aug 2022
A Once Great Airline that is an Embarrassment to NZ

I am pleased to see your staff member held Air New Zealand's feet to the fire on this.

Having luckily, due to my employment, been swinging between Gold and Gold Elite with Air New Zealand over a number of years, I've noticed that service standards had slipped even before Covid struck.

With the aftermath of Covid (and the company's poor performance with refunds) and yet another tax payer bailout one would of thought that those of us that support our so called national airline would see a better service standard.

All I can see at the moment is a company that goes beyond the norm in its self adulation (their PR machine) and a waste of money on its Safety Briefings with no regard to the people that support it - the fare paying passenger.

Domestically in the regions we are stuck with Air NZ, but internationally give me Qantas or any of the Asian airlines any day for service.

James C.
08 Aug 2022
Welcome to our world

Great to know Consumer staffers get the same treatment as the rest of Air NZ's customers. Air NZ's treatment of customers over the past few years refusing to refund cancelled trips if nothing short of a national embarrassment.
In the NZ domestic flight market they are a monopoly and behave like it. Thankfully we have the choice of superior airlines when flying internationally.

Judy L.
08 Aug 2022
some balance

While I have every sympathy with the writer for the sad end to his trip, I would like to add some balance to the series of complaints below. I always fly with Air NZ if possible, and have only once had a problem (not of their making). I have found them one of the best of the airlines. Admittedly, I have not flown in the last couple of years.

Merete H.
07 Aug 2022
no help to get to back to original destination

I booked a flight from Brisbane to Palmerston North once travel back to NZ from Australia was allowed.
My flight was suddenly cancelled, when I checked the Air NZ app, with no email explaining why. I spent two hours on hold, to speak to a person and I was told that the reason was that Air NZ were not flying to the smaller provincial towns after 5pm, due to staffing problems. The person I spoke to, offered to reroute me to Wellington via Christchurch and 'then I could probably manage to get back to Palmerston North on my own!' Oh, and it would cost me $450 extra for that change! I declined and cancelled my trip, asking for a credit.
When I tried to use this credit upon rebooking my trip, I was told it would only be available in 3 weeks time!!
Long story short, I booked and paid for a trip and then contacted Air NZ where after a while, I got my full refund. So I have no wish to use Air NZ again.

Michael A.
07 Aug 2022
Some balance

I've flown a lot with Air NZ over the years, including a few years of fortnightly trips to Wellington from Auckland and many trips to the US and UK as well as other locations. I've also flown on many other airlines. Overall my view is that generally Air NZ provides a better level of service than most other airlines, and I think this has often been reflected in various industry surveys. However, our most recent trip with them to the US in May was not a good experience for a number of reasons. I think the simple answer is that they are struggling (as indeed many NZ companies are) to build up their staff numbers and experience. It is not an excuse for them, but an explanation. Hopefully they will overcome this blip and I intend to keep flying with them but I will be keeping an eye on their performance! I should add that for the last few years I have flown as a "regular" person without the advantage of any special airline status as I no longer fly enough to maintain that status.

Zak A.
07 Aug 2022
I'm a proud kiwi but I choose Qantas over AirNZ any day of the week

The amount of times Qantas has dug me out of the hole travelling internationally and gone above and beyond (lost luggage retrieved, incorrect luggage rerouted with no fuss, over weight luggage not charged, ease of re-routing with tight connections made just in time) not to mention lower fares in general, why would I even bother with our communist bailed out 'national' airline. It's a joke.

Hugh P.
06 Aug 2022
A slightly different version of scumbaggery.

It's not quite the same topic, but I learnt today of an Air NZ procedure: that a domestic flight had 1,000kg too much fuel put into the plane. So, 1,000kg of things onboard had to be removed. 700kg of freight was identified and taken off to be sent on a later flight, BUT SO WAS 300kg OF PASSENGER LUGGAGE. So about 15 people were going to land with Air New Zealand fully knowing that they'd removed their luggage on purpose. No notice, no acknowledgement, and no compensation because the luggage would be arriving within 24 hours.
Urgh.

john c.
06 Aug 2022
Arrogant Airline

Al S. hits the nail on the head. Why on earth did Michael Cullen waste millions of taxpayers' dollars buying Air NZ back? National airline my foot. They treat customers badly and the regions disgracefully. A former director once described them as "owner-occupied". It boggles the mind how they claim to have such a high reputation. I flew overseas regularly for a number of years and Air NZ were never better than average. Domestically, they wouldn't even make that if they had any real competition.

Peter I.
06 Aug 2022
Quadruple the airfare compensation in USA

My understanding is that for overbooking and bumping that results in arrival later than the original booking, the compensation over and above the “replacement” flight is 4x the airfare paid up to $1550. FAA mandated. The point being there is a structure in place to discourage and manage it.

Erin D.
06 Aug 2022
Air New Zealand needs to be called to account

I'm sorry to say that this story doesn't surprise me. Air New Zealand's overall service has plummeted recently. Before COVID I flew a lot and, once service started going downhill, I kept a spreadsheet of all the changes that were made to my flights by Air NZ. More of my flights were changed than weren't - some of the changes were minor, some of them incredibly inconvenient. As passengers, we have very little say in these yet, if we want to make changes, Air NZ charges through the nose.

My biggest beef with them was that I booked a Southern Lights tour, run by Viva Expeditions - a small company that chose to support Air NZ by finding a use for their planes when they were effectively just useless metal tubes sitting around on airport aprons. Air NZ pulled the skids out from under Viva by withdrawing the planes when Air NZ decided they needed them elsewhere. They did this not only once but twice. They have no loyalty to us. Even as an Elite member, I would go elsewhere if the choice was not the even worse airline, Jetstar.

Al S.
06 Aug 2022
Taxpayer bailout

Hi James - great story. Please don’t stop. Air Nz need to take a proper PR beating until they stop taking government bailouts every time they have a capitalism ‘whoopsie’. You own this airline as much as I do, and you should get every cent back on your flight.

Overbooking is a disgusting practice that should be banned in NZ (TBH I thought this was a USA airlines thing only). Perhaps do an consumer investigation into the legality of this practice?

Surely this is a breach of the fair trading act and you should get 100% refund - ombudsman might also be interested.

-former journo, Former PR

Your Highness
06 Aug 2022
Compensation

When I started reading the story, I made a guess at how air nz would make it up to the customers for the downgrade. I assumed: full refund of fares paid, provision of business class services as far as practicable during the flight such as menu, and of course an apology.
I am baffled at what they were offered. This is poor business practice as it results in unhappy customers, who will likely spread the word.
On another tack, where the plane is overbooked, I thought the solution is to have a compensation auction in the departure lounge (preferably), or on board. Start at $100, and increase it until a passenger puts their hand up; there will be some who will volunteer for a price.

John M.
06 Aug 2022
seat selection

"I did want to clarify that the seat selection map does not indicate the number of seats that are unsold in a cabin but show the seats available for pre-selection." Rubbish! If someone has already selected a seat then it surely would no longer be available for pre-selection. It is the last person who tries to preselect a seat who should be bumped because it should have been obvious at that stage the seats were overbooked.

Judy L.
08 Aug 2022
seat selection

Lots of people book and do not select seats. I have never been prepared to pay extra to choose a seat. So it is possible that the rest of the airline was full.

Terence J K.
06 Aug 2022
I can sympathise with your experience James.

So familiar, but my experience was over 20 years ago. After a lifetime of economy flying whether at my cost or an organisation paying, I had a solo trip to Sydney, just once I decided to use airpoints to upgrade to business. Booked on phone with a real person & as a window seat nut was seated in 2A! Yea! On boarding was shown to my seat in 2B. Finally plucked up courage to enquire of the pleasant lady sitting in 'my' seat, when she had got this seat allocation? Hah! Just now, rocked up to counter and service person noting this was her first time in business, said no problem, I can get you a window seat!!!!! Thanks Air NZ, I will get over it, but maybe another decade?

Your Highness
06 Aug 2022
Highly amusing story, if it wasn’t true.

Someone over eager to please the customer who happens to be in front of them at the moment. Unfortunately at the expense of someone who had a last minute surprise!

John M.
06 Aug 2022
PR disaster!

I am amazed that the airline left it to be very last minute to try and sort out this overbooked situation! I am sure they would of been aware long before (possibly even before your original flight) that a problem was looming! Or were they just hoping for a "no show"? unlikely in Business class I would imagine.
And I understood that normally in an overbook situation, the first step was to call for volunteers.
It naturally goes against my normal feelings to think that business class should have extra special treatment but i have to accept that is what you pay for. And it is reasonable to assume that when one pays for this extra treatment that it would put most of the usual concerns about being confined in a tubular metal cylinder, aside. Their PR department should have ben involved with this well before the event. Because of the few total passengers involved they should have all been canvassed to seek a solution. Perhaps if they had sought cooperation from those passengers a few days before someone may have been prepared to change their flight date (with perhaps compensation for expenses for another night's stay etc)
But as I said above, to overbook Business class when there are so few seats involved is inconceivable and I suspect that they have allowed another passenger with much higher kudos to elbow their way in here.

Ian B.
06 Aug 2022
Very well written article James!

Best article / written article I have read on here in ages!