Some Kiwis in the UK wanting to return to Aotearoa on the national carrier’s flights have been left “stuck in the Air New Zealand system,” according to Consumer NZ’s chief executive.
By Vandhna Bhan
John Duffy’s comments come after revelations that some people trying to return home from the UK have been purchasing dud flights from a pre-Covid-19 pandemic schedule off the Air New Zealand website.
Air New Zealand’s general manager networks Scott Carr told 1 NEWS that for the last few weeks "around 30 or 40 people a day" had booked tickets for April through to June on pre-Covid-19 pandemic schedules.
Now, many of those flights have been cancelled and people who had booked flights transiting through Asian countries will not get a refund — just a credit.
Today Air New Zealand updated its flight schedule from April through to June.
The situation has gained a lot of negative attention on a Facebook page Kiwis Coming Home, with one person labelling it "a brazen grab for money from Air NZ".
Consumer NZ’s chief executive Jon Duffy has called out Air New Zealand for not having any warning on their website over the last couple of weeks that the pre-Covid schedule flights might be cancelled.
"Air New Zealand is fully aware of the consequences of not communicating well around the Covid restrictions so they should be doing better," Duffy said.
“The biggest problem from a consumer perspective is that if a consumer purchases one of those flights and Air New Zealand knows that there’s a likelihood that flight’s not going to go ahead, that consumers’ stuck within the Air New Zealand system.”
However, while Carr said last week "we do recognise that perhaps some of these flights won’t operate" he’s defended having the flights available for sale online saying "we have been waiting to receive slot alleviation for the April to end of June period, which means our regular slot times are protected even if we can’t fly them all".
Duffy argues that if the airline had a good idea that some flights could not operate then they should have been "upfront with consumers about that".
Carr said forecasting future flights is very difficult for airlines right now and "access to airports are governed by strict regulations around slot departures and arrivals, hence they’re very valuable slots".
He said Air New Zealand understands the struggle Kiwis are having trying to find a way home amid the pandemic.
“People are booking quite late so they’re booking a month out because of managed isolation and I do get that’s made life very complicated for customers,” Carr said.
Up until today there were no flights on the Air New Zealand website that were confirmed with the new schedule, making it hard for people wanting to return to book spots in New Zealand's Covid-19 managed isolation facilities.
A managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) spokesperson told 1 NEWS that they are limited as to how far out they can upload information about voucher allocations and for that reason they "do not load flights into the managed isolation allocation system until airlines advise of their confirmed flight schedules".
For those who had booked their managed isolation spot and now their flight has been cancelled with the new schedule, MIQ said: "We can assist passengers who are able to re-book new flights on the same day, the day before or day after their original arrival. If airlines choose to reschedule flights – and we’ve advised them that there is no capacity in managed isolation – then their passengers could lose their vouchers."
Finding flights and a MIQ voucher has proven to be a difficult task for many.
Some commentators on the Facebook page claimed they had missed Air New Zealand flights due to the huge uptake. For others it’s been a gamble to see whether their flight remained on the schedule, or got cancelled.