Traveller clashes with Air New Zealand after holiday nightmare

5 years ago
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An Air New Zealand passenger is upset over costs to fly his partner back to New Zealand after their overseas holiday took a turn for the worse.

Nelson man Ben Van Dyke and his partner booked a round trip from New Zealand to San Francisco via Hawaii. But when his partner became ill with meningitis in Honolulu, they missed their flights to San Francisco and the credit from those flights was used to fly them back to New Zealand.

Van Dyke said he felt cheated by the airline because of the high cost of the last-minute flights home which meant there was no credit left to refund the flights for the San Francisco leg of the journey.

The flights were booked by Air New Zealand under the instruction of Van Dyke’s travel insurer.

“We had a contract which gave us a ticket to get to San Francisco and back but they never fulfilled it,” Van Dyke said.

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Air New Zealand spokesperson Emma Field said the cheapest fare at the time was purchased to get the couple home, and this was the option the Van Dykes’ insurance company chose.

Air New Zealand paid the credit to the travel insurer for the flight, which was to the value of their original round-trip.

“The value of the original Air New Zealand fares has now already been used to get Mr Van Dyke and his partner home… so there is nothing to refund to them,” said Field.

Van Dyke said the high cost of returning the couple from Honolulu included a $600 additional fee for both him and his partner – a requirement under Air New Zealand’s policy for any passenger who made a return flight through Honolulu.

This cost was also covered through the credit from his missed flights, but Van Dyke disputed the additional fee given he had not flown through Honolulu as a stop-over.

Air New Zealand Holidays store manager Erik Roeper told Van Dyke in their correspondence the best priced one-way fare was issued at the time.

Roeper told him: “Your [original] return flight was from San Francisco, and it was cheaper to reissue your tickets with an authority to pick up the flight from Hawaii than purchase a new one-way ticket from Honolulu to Nelson.  In order to sell the ticket correctly the $600 surcharge was applied, as per Air New Zealand’s fare rules.”

Van Dyke said the case was an example of the airline “price gouging over somebody’s misfortune”.

Another Air New Zealand passenger from Richmond, who did not want to be named, requested a refund of about $5000 for her family’s airfares to Hawaii on compassionate grounds after her daughter suffered a number of seizures from encephalitis.

Air New Zealand told her they would hold the flight cost in credit for a year.

The woman said it would be difficult for the family to find another window for a holiday within the next year.

“We still think Air New Zealand could still have refunded our money. Given the circumstances, they could have been a bit more generous,” she said.

Field said Air New Zealand would consider compassionate consideration if she provided the required documentation.

The passenger complaints followed a story this month about a family who had failed to receive a refund on their flights on compassionate grounds when a member of their family was on life support in Wellington Hospital.

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