Yesterday, October 22, was my birthday, it was also the day my brother would return from Rarotonga to Auckland on Air New Zealand 945 with a Premium Economy seat that I booked and paid for (no awards points used, just good old hard cash) back in August, one of the last two seats available for this grade of service. I treated him to a Business class ride up here but I was unable to purchase a return Business Class seat because they were ALL SOLD OUT BACK IN AUGUST.
Because my email
address was on his booking, I was receiving the Air New Zealand alerts for his
travel. In a warm-up to my birthday treat I received from the Air New Zealand
Operations Manager in Rarotonga a nice big shouty all caps titled email “"DOWNGRADE FROM PREMIUM ECONOMY TO ECONOMY" which I thought was a nice touch, not!
The email arrived less than 24 hours before the expected departure and after
office hours in Rarotonga and the activation of their recorded phone message.
Lucky for me the
Operations Manager was still in the office and continued to communicate by
email. It would seem that Air New Zealand had “operational requirements” that
necessitated the autocratic last minute involuntary flight downgrade. This
turned out to be "We have oversales in
business class due to pilot contractual arrangements they must travel in
business class which has resulted in a downgrade from business class to premium
and premium to economy cabin. Well, no
sh*#@!t Sherlock, oversales were on their radar back in August and 4 seats in
Business Class were downgraded? That’s a lot of pilots for a less than a 4 hour
flight each way and a lot of unhappy people besides my brother and I.
Oh! and lucky me on
declining their $360 inconvenience payment
and repeated offers of Koru Lounge access after
pushing back, only to be told a refund of fare difference, if any, would take 8
WEEKS, and yes, I am shouting. I can’t calculate this myself because I failed
to take a screen shot of what I paid for the Premium Economy sector and with
one way Economy airfares breaching $1,000 there is a chance that my brother got
upgraded to a more expensive fare. Potentially no refund at all but I have to
wait 8 WEEKS to find out.
There is some advice
for others in my missive. I’ll get to those but one last complaint. Clearly,
with notice less than 24 hours there was very little time to negotiate any
appeasement here, including the option of travelling on an alternative day
because well what do you know…. “Unfortunately, all
our premium cabins are full out of Rarotonga”. and probably beyond the pay grade of the Operations Manager in Rarotonga
in any case. Obviously, I am going to lodge a formal complaint and off I go to
the Air New Zealand website to do this. Now you have to give Air New Zealand
credit for consistent time frames because this was their auto response to my
lodged complaint, “Kia ora, Thank you for contacting Air New Zealand
Customer Services. A member of our team will respond to your email
within 6-8 weeks.” 6-8 WEEKS, yes, I am shouting again.
Yes, I am a
disgruntled, annoyed, disappointed customer but marginally less so now I have
had a spit. I do want to take this opportunity to thank Air New Zealand for
spoiling my birthday.