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Mechanical or weather? Air NZ passengers suspicious

March 24, 2015 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A group of Air New Zealand passengers are unhappy over the way the airline treated them after it had to cancel a flight from Auckland back to their home city of Nelson, in the South Island.

The group attended a concert by the Eagles rock band (founded 1971; still going strong) in Auckland last Saturday, only to find their flight home cancelled the next day.

According to the Nelson Mail, some of the group suspect the airline changed the reason for cancellation from mechanical problems to weather, to avoid having to pay for their overnight accommodation.

The group say they ended up paying more than NZD 700 in motel, food and taxi costs as well as missing the next day’s work.

The focus of the problem is the nature of the “disrupt”, generally defined as a delay or cancellation at short notice, normally on day of departure.

A disrupt can be either uncontrollable, meaning beyond an airline’s control (weather being a prime example) or considered within an airline’s control, such as delays due to aircraft technical or engineering problems.

The definition can affect payment.

For a more detailed study of passenger rights when flight cancellations occur (in an Australian context), see the article by Anthony Cordato, Travel Lawyer, and Lindita Zaimi, Law Student in today’s edition of Global Travel Media: Flight cancellations in Australia – What are the passenger rights?

In the New Zealand case, one couple told the paper the airline’s attitude to passengers had been poor, describing the cancellation process as “shoddy”.

A passenger said she later learned that two planes had broken down and the airline’s problems were mostly mechanical rather than weather. Nelson (one of the sunniest parts of New Zealand) had not been affected by the bad weather that hit other parts of the country, she said.

“They knew there was no accommodation in Auckland because of the Eagles concerts.”

Her group eventually ended up in a motel at Papatoetoe in South Auckland, about 18 kilometres from downtown Auckland.

Air New Zealand, in response, blamed several factors. The aircraft was late to arrive in Auckland and engineering requirements meant it needed to be back in Auckland on Monday for the peak morning services, a spokeswoman told the Nelson Mail.

“With weather conditions forecast to seriously deteriorate as a result of Tropical Cyclone Pam [which hooked down to New Zealand after smiting Vanuatu] the decision was taken not to operate the outbound service to Nelson as there was a significant risk the weather conditions would have prevented the aircraft making the return leg to Auckland,” she said.

“We sincerely apologise to customers who were inconvenienced.”

Written by : Peter Needham

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