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Airline change of heart over cancer mother’s Aussie trip

November 4, 2013 Aviation, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59Air New Zealand has brought a heap of bad publicity on itself through its seemingly hard-hearted attitude involving a woman with cancer. The case led an Air New Zealand manager to break into tears while phoning the woman to apologise.

It all started when the woman concerned, a 42-year-old Christchurch mother, tried to postpone a family holiday to Australia. Her reason: she had been diagnosed with breast cancer after booking the holiday and had to undergo urgent radiation treatment. The timing of that clashed with her holiday booking.

Air New Zealand is reported to have declined her request to postpone the flights without penalty, because it was “only breast cancer”.

The case is a shock partly on its own grounds, and partly because Air New Zealand is involved. Jetstar has got itself into hot water on a few occasions by making blunders over compassionate cases, but Air New Zealand generally manages to stay above it. With Jetstar, such PR blunders have generally been followed by apologies – and Air New Zealand has now done the same.

The story broke last week when the Christchurch Press newspaper reported that Jackie McKenzie, 42, was left in tears after being told by an Air New Zealand representative that as breast cancer was an ongoing condition rather than a “critical illness”, the airline would deny her application for compassionate consideration.

“Company policy” dictated that McKenzie must stick to the rules and pay a NZD 100 change fee and NZD 70 service fee for each ticket, a total of NZD 510.

McKenzie said she hung up the phone, fell to her knees “and just cried”.

Less than a week after making the booking to Brisbane for herself, her husband and their three-year-old daughter, McKenzie had been diagnosed with cancer.  Her first radiation treatment was scheduled for the same day she was expected to fly out.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman told the newspaper that the airline provided  compassionate fares on a case-by-case basis, but the fares were for passengers needing to book last-minute travel following a bereavement.

It was “obviously not relevant to this case,” the spokewoman said. Those words, and the story, provoked a storm of protest, with about 500 readers making online comments, most of them outraged by the airline’s stance. News followed that McKenzie had since had her left breast removed but the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes so she faces months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Thankfully, the airline’s uncharacteristically hard-hearted attitude did not last. Not long afterwards, McKenzie received a tearful apology from an Air New Zealand manager.

“When the manager rang me she was in tears and she was so apologetic,” McKenzie told TVNZ. “She told me she would guarantee the company’s policy would change.”

Air New Zealand later admitted to The Press that its response to McKenzie’s request had been “unsatisfactory”. The airline confirmed that it had apologised to McKenzie and would hold the McKenzie family’s flights in credit, without penalty.

Written by Peter Needham in New Zealand

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is why travel agents sell travel insurance.
    No tears, just a bit of paper work.
    This individual is going through a terrible experience. I bet She has car and household insurance in case of emergency.
    So lets just take it as a given that personal responsibility continues with travel insurance. Airline is not then punished for its term and conditions of trade.

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