Dog misses flight, ends up at uni party

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 09/08/2014
Lucy Johnston
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ Fairfax NZ

PRECIOUS CARGO: Air New Zealand will refund the $200 flight Lucy Johnston paid to have her dog Immy flown to Wellington. Immy ended up with strangers at a student party in Palmerston North instead, after the flight was diverted.

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A Wellington pet owner is calling for Air New Zealand to sharpen up its act after a series of mishaps led to her dog ending up at a student party in Palmerston North.

Lucy Johnston paid $200 for her poodle-bichon frise cross Immy to be flown unaccompanied from Dunedin to Wellington last weekend. While Johnston waited at Wellington Airport to collect her, Immy had already been diverted to Palmerston North.

Air New Zealand contacted her to say Immy could be put in the cargo hold on the bus that was bringing passengers back to Wellington.

When Johnston's questions about the cargo hold's ventilation went unanswered, she made the call to drive the two hours to Palmerston North.

As she drove, she was contacted by a staff member at Palmerston North airport to say it was about to close and Immy had to be picked up immediately.

"I was lucky to have a friend with me who could take the phone calls. The airport called several times to say they were closing and check how far off we were. If I'd been by myself, it would have been even more stressful."

Eventually a friend of a friend, whom Johnston didn't know, went to pick up Immy, and took her to the student party. "I can actually see the funny side of her ending up at a student party," Johnston said. "Let's face it, nobody wants to spend their Saturday night at a party in Palmy, even Immy - although she was having a great time.

"She was with people I didn't know at a flat that wasn't fenced in, and the weather was pretty atrocious for driving."

Air New Zealand airports general manager Todd Grace said the company apologised for the initial miscommunication with Johnston about the flight diversion. "Once communication was established with the customer, the airport staff were able to reassure her that her dog was being well taken care of, including being taken out of the cage on a lead to be walked, toileted and given water."

Standard protocol meant either suitable road transport was arranged or airport staff were expected to organise an overnight kennel and transport for the following day. "In this case, the road transport option was not suitable for an animal, and unfortunately our staff failed to offer the overnight kennelling option."

Grace said Air New Zealand would refund the $200 flight and meet any other associated costs.

Johnston said she accepted the apology but wanted to make sure others knew their rights. "If people are flying their pets, they're probably pretty precious to them, so they have a duty of care."

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- The Dominion Post

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