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Masterton family fight for a refund

A Masterton man and his family left stranded in Fiji for three days after Air New Zealand cancelled their flight have fought for three months to claim back $2600 of incurred costs.

The man applied for reimbursement on September 21, and after months of communications with Air New Zealand’s customer service, was finally paid out 12 weeks later on December 7.

“They gave us no direction as to how to manage this situation; they literally left us in a foreign country and expected us to just sort ourselves out,” he said.

Air New Zealand said its customer service team was working around the clock to process refund requests.

The family’s flight on August 13 was cancelled and rescheduled for August 16.

In those three days, the man said he incurred $2600 of extra costs for accommodation, meals, parking, and pet boarding.

At first, the man went to his insurance company but discovered that Air New Zealand, and not the insurance company, were legally liable to pay his costs after reading an article about another woman on his flight from Fiji who fought for reimbursement from the airline.

He found that airlines were obliged to reimburse his costs under the Civil Aviation Act [CAA] and the Montreal Convention.

“Air New Zealand never told me they were legally liable to reimburse the costs; they abandoned a whole plane load of us in Fiji for three days but never told us we could claim back the costs.

“I only found out because somebody else on the flight went to the media,” he said.

The man first contacted Air New Zealand applying for reimbursement on September 21, after it had already agreed to pay out other passengers on the same flight.

He said he hadn’t heard anything for 10 days, so he called the airline demanding a response.

Two days later, Air New Zealand contacted him asking for receipts, which he provided.

A week later, he hadn’t heard anything, so he emailed
again and received no reply.

Three days later, at 8am on November 2, he emailed again, telling Air New Zealand he would be emailing every day until they responded, and said if it didn’t happen, he would seek legal counsel and go to the media.

A mere 54 minutes after he threatened legal and media action, Air New Zealand replied, saying they would pay him in total, but had lost his receipts, so he needed to resend them, which he did immediately.

Air New Zealand said it would take 15 to 20 working days for the money to show in his account.

It took five weeks and another threat of media and legal action before Air New Zealand finally paid him last Wednesday [December 7].

A spokesperson for the company “categorically denied” that Air New Zealand refunded him due to legal and media threats.

“We understand how frustrating it is for those whose flights are adjusted, and we do our best to work with them to find a reasonable solution.

“In this instance, we rebooked this man and his family on another flight and refunded the costs associated with this delay directly to his bank account,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that although Air New Zealand didn’t have time to engage in great detail, the man’s timeline of events did not match Air New Zealand’s account of what happened.

However, the Times-Age was able to see the time-stamped emails between the man and Air New Zealand referenced in this article.

After going to the media, the man said he hoped people would become aware of Air New Zealand’s legal obligations, so others would not be out of pocket.

“Air New Zealand has done nothing to help, so it’s only fair people know,” he said.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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