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7 Hours On Phone: Air NZ Apologises To Customer Left In Limbo

Air New Zealand says it cannot plan for every eventuality and customer bottlenecks do occur. Photo: Supplied / Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has been rated a four out of 10 for customer service by a family left in limbo when its Chicago to Auckland flight was suspended.

US-based New Zealander, Rupert, said Air NZ left them in call centre limbo, refusing to rebook them with like-for-like seats on a different service.

Six people were booked on the flight from Chicago to Auckland for Christmas. Their booking included three sky couches.

But in March, Air NZ suspended its direct flights between Chicago and Auckland] citing maintenance issues with the Rolls Royce engines on the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Rupert told Checkpoint he had spent $15,000 and wanted equivalent tickets and sky couches on another Air NZ flight.



"What I expected is that we would be rebooked Chicago to Auckland with a layover somewhere else, with the sky couch on the US to Auckland leg, or the same number of sky couches that we booked originally. I thought that would be a simple like-for-like swap."

But when he looked at other Air NZ flights, available sky couches were "blacked out" and he believed the airline wanted to sell them at a higher price.

"The response from Air New Zealand was that they couldn't book us on the sky couches but that they could refund the amount that we had paid for our sky couches.

"That, of course, was not a very satisfactory solution", he said, because it would mean a one-year-old on their laps for a 12- to 14-hour flight.

"It has been surprisingly difficult. I've had several nights up well past midnight over here in the US trying to figure this out.

"I was on the phone for seven hours last weekend. It's frustrating because the systems don't seem to be designed for anyone's convenience, so you know be talking to one person and they say they'll get back to me. But then if they're out of the office, no one else can take over that until that person comes back.

"So it's been very difficult, much more difficult than I would have expected."

He said after RNZ's Checkpoint intervened, Air NZ e-mailed saying that the sky couches had been booked now.

However, Air New Zealand disputed that it responded only because RNZ was reporting the story.

Air New Zealand long haul general manager Scott Carr said Rupert's rating was fair for the way he was treated. He apologised for the situation Rupert was put in.

"I don't mind taking a hit every now and then for these kind of things. I don't think anyone in our contact centre team, or myself, would say that that's a great experience for one of our customers.

"You can't plan for every eventuality," he told Checkpoint.

He blamed resourcing for the incident, despite the airline knowing in advance it was going to cancel the flights.

"The changes were made last week," he said, and no bookings were left unattended.

The airline's disruption policy allowed for full refunds to customers who did not receive a product they paid for, Carr said.

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