Passenger questions Air New Zealand’s service

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Lorraine Williams.

Lorraine Williams.

A local school Principal is disappointed with Air New Zealand’s treatment of passengers bound for Samoa. 

This is in relation to a recent incident pointing out that the Airline chose “cargo” over “passengers”.

Lorraine Williams told the Samoa Observer that she and other passengers were about to board their return flight to Samoa on 2 May when they were told that due to weight restrictions, they were cutting down the number of passengers.

She said she and the other passengers had to catch the next available flight.

Ms. Williams said there were a lot of empty seats on the flight.

She believes that cargo received priority over those that bought the “cheap tickets’ and the one thing she and the other passengers had in common was that they had purchased cheap airfares on special.

“The thing is, I booked and bought those tickets months ago,” she said. 

“I even checked the Air New Zealand app and I was allocated a seat, but then I went to the airport and was asked to stand to the side. They told me, sorry due to weight restrictions we are cutting down on number of passengers and 17 of us got bumped off.”

Ms. Williams has been a long time loyal customer of Air New Zealand and was ecstatic to find that in the past six months, Air New Zealand had reduced their airfares between Samoa and New Zealand quite dramatically. 

She took advantage of the specials but found that the confusion that entailed was not worth it.

“I went back about four times to the desk, I didn’t get on. Then just randomly, they let one person on board. They then told three other people that they could get on but then the next day I saw those same three people at the checkout counter who said to me that they had gotten right up to the boarding section and were bumped off again. 

“My question is how do they choose who gets bumped off and who doesn’t?”

Ms. Williams says she has never had any problems with the airline until now.

She is skeptical of buying the cheap airfares that Air New Zealand has been advertising recently.

“I see that Air New Zealand is advertising cheap fares to Samoa, which is a bit of a joke really when last week 17 of us got bumped off even though there were a lot of empty seats on the flight.”

Air New Zealand.
Air New Zealand.

Trustworthiness is more important to Ms. Williams than price, and the Vaiala Beach Primary school Principal says she will think twice about purchasing those on special airfares again.

“It makes me think I should fly with Samoa Airways. I have been a good Air New Zealand customer for many years and I’m seriously reconsidering that. If they are going to advertise these cheap fares, they need to maintain their high standard of service no matter how much money you paid.”

Contacted for a comment, a representative of Air New Zealand, Hannah Searle, said the reason there were weight restrictions on Ms. William’s Auckland - Apia service was because of poor weather forecast en route, which required the aircraft to carry additional fuel.

“In the case of Ms. William’s Auckland - Apia service (NZ92) on 2 May, the operating weight was restricted due to poor weather forecast en route, which required the aircraft to carry additional fuel in case it could not land in Apia and need to either divert to an alternate airport or return to Auckland.  Where this occurs, customers are prioritised over cargo.

“After cargo had been removed from Ms. William’s flight the aircraft was still overweight meaning some customer needed to be transferred to a later service.  These customers received a NZ$350 (T$650) voucher as compensation, which for some customers was more than they’d paid for the ticket.

Ms. Williams told the Samoa Observer that the airline did compensate her and other passengers who were bumped off the flight, but for her she would rather have been on the flight in one of the empty seats.

“They told me there were a lot of empty seats, cargo over passengers? You get NZ$350 and $18 tala for food,” Ms. Williams said. 

“I got an extra voucher for a taxi chit, I didn’t need that. What I needed was to get back, it’s about the principle. Why bother with these cheap fares if you don’t get the same service”

Addressing the issue of how passengers are chosen to stand down from a flight, Ms. Searle went through their process and acknowledged that the value of the fare paid is taken into consideration.

“Our process in these situations is to first ask for volunteers willing to delay travel. If there are no volunteers, then staff make a selection taking into account a number of factors, including the value of the fare paid, any mobility or special assistance requirements associated with a booking and air points loyalty tier status.”

According to a source within the aviation industry, these disruptions are most likely stemming from Air New Zealand’s recent issues with nine of their 787 Dreamliner aircraft being grounded due to checks being undertaken on their engines. 

The checks are necessary because of a directive issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (E.A.S.A.) and to add to that disruption, the United States regulators have also brought in tough new standards covering how far Dreamliners can fly from airports in the case of an engine shutdown.

According to news report from Newstalk B dated 17 April; Air New Zealand’s international network continues to experience further disruptions as their fleet of 787 Dreamliners are being grounded while they conduct checks forcing the airline to juggle their fleet of aircrafts as the Dreamliner engine problems grow.

“The European Aviation Safety Agency last week ordered additional maintenance checks on Trent 1000 ‘package C’ engines, of which Air New Zealand has nine, after it was found that durability issues afflicting blades were worse than first thought,” Newstalk B stated in their report. 

Thousands of passengers have been affected by these disruptions including Pacific Island travellers, according to Air New Zealand’s latest media release on the Global issue affecting some of the Rolls Royce engines that power its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner fleet. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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