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LETTER: A memorable birthday for all the wrong reasons

Thursday 27 October 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


LETTER: A memorable birthday for all the wrong reasons

Dear Editor, 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.

A memorable birthday for all the wrong reasons. 

Barbara Hanchard