Gary McCormick Air NZ stoush: 'I did it for all Kiwis, justice will be served'
MoreFM radio host Gary McCormick says he has "no idea what happened" to prompt Air New Zealand officials to ban him from flying with the airline.
"I'm a 'banned citizen', is that right? Quite a privilege these days, I'd say," said McCormick, when contacted on Tuesday afternoon.
The radio host said that during a flight several weeks ago, he complained to airline staff after a 40 minute wait on a tarmac at Christchurch Airport. McCormick and fellow passengers were then told they would be boarding another flight instead.
According to McCormick, the next flight was also cancelled.
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"So, that (flight) never happened, you know how it is. Technical engineering difficulties and all the rest of it. I was trying to get to a personal thing, I wasn't flying for work, [I was flying] to a surfers' reunion that I'd actually organised, so I couldn't really miss it. We hadn't seen each other in about 30 years," he added.
McCormick, who had planned the reunion to celebrate his 65th birthday, claims that during the wait, he approached airport ground staff and complained about the airline's poor service, before making his way to the Koru Lounge for a drink "in protest."
"I walked into the Koru Lounge, to which I am not a member, and helped myself to a glass of wine," he said. "Soon enough, [Air NZ] contacted their secret cell and some policeman (approached me) and said that [Air NZ] can do me for trespassing."
According to the veteran broadcaster, Air New Zealand then sent him a letter in the mail, stating that the radio host and prolific Kiwi poet had been "banned from the airline for two years."
"The letter just states the ban – there's no phone number or [disclaimer] asking for 'my side of the story', there's only an email address," he said.
"I'm lucky that Jetstar have been good to me, very good to me, actually."
The radio DJ added that this was not his first run-in with the national carrier, who he believed ran an "abusive semi-monopoly" on the New Zealand airline industry.
"In 2011, I complained about their service, during a flight from Palmerston North to Christchurch. They asked [passengers] to get off the plane, dumped us on a bus late at night and had us all waiting. There was a woman on the bus with a crying baby, I said 'don't stand for this, stand up'. They told me 'it's not your business' and I said 'it is my business'."
"I do understand our bill of rights, here in New Zealand, the accuser must make themselves known," he said. "And under New Zealand law, I'm entitled to be an irate customer."
However in a statement on Tuesday night, an Air New Zealand person said they had followed "airline procedure".
"The wellbeing, safety and security of Air New Zealand staff and customers are paramount and non-negotiable.
"We have clear and well-documented expectations of the conduct we expect from customers," the statement read.
"In cases where there are behavioural issues over a long period of time and/or are serious enough for the Police to be involved, there comes a point where Air New Zealand is no longer willing to accept some customers for carriage on our services.
"Mr McCormick is welcome to share any correspondence from Air New Zealand over the past month."
While the radio host could not specify what action he and his legal counsel planned to take next, McCormick said he fully intends to fight the ban.
"Even if justice doesn't prevail, it will be served, I'm not just doing this for myself, it's for all New Zealanders. This isn't the society we live in," said the broadcaster and New Zealand police patron, before adding that the policemen were "delightful to deal with".
"The most annoying thing is, I didn't even get to finish my glass of wine."