Sick mum 'belittled' by Air New Zealand
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A Christchurch mother's bid to postpone a family holiday that clashed with her first stint of radiation treatment was declined by Air New Zealand because it was "only breast cancer".
Jackie McKenzie, 42, was left in tears after an Air New Zealand representative denied her compassionate consideration application because, he said, breast cancer was an ongoing condition rather than a "critical illness".
"I hung up the phone, fell to my knees and just cried. I haven't cried like that through this whole cancer scare," she said.
"He belittled what I'm going through when I have tried so hard to be positive about all this."
After Fairfax Media contacted Air New Zealand about McKenzie's plight yesterday, she was told the value of her fares would be held in credit until she was well enough to use them.
Today a representative from the company said: "Air New Zealand accepts our Contact Centre’s response to Jackie McKenzie is unsatisfactory. We have apologised and will put it right". The airline would also offer her the option of a full refund.
On August 20, McKenzie booked flights to Brisbane for a family holiday with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.
Less than a week later she was diagnosed with cancer.
McKenzie has since had her left breast removed, discovered the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes and been told she faces nine months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
When she realised her trip would coincide with the treatment, McKenzie rang Air New Zealand and asked to postpone the $1800 flights.
She was told she could apply for compassionate consideration if she provided a medical certificate.
On Wednesday, McKenzie rang the airline for an update on her application.
"The lady on the phone literally said: 'Your application has been declined because it's only breast cancer'."
"I said to her, 'Are you joking? Did you just say that, because I am in disbelief,' " McKenzie said.
She asked to speak to the woman's manager, who confirmed the application had been denied because breast cancer was an ongoing condition "not a bereavement or a critical illness".
The manager told her the flight could be postponed if she went down the normal route and paid a $100 change fee and $70 service fee for each ticket, equating to $510.
McKenzie told the manager she would be undergoing radiation on the same day she was expected to fly out and asked him to look at her situation compassionately.
Again, he told her no as it was "company policy".
"I was in such disbelief, I was in tears and I was gasping down the phone," she said.
"I have had a really scary time dealing with cancer with a 3-year-old girl and I just wanted some compassion. Their response just took my breath away."
An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline did provide compassionate fares on a case-by-case basis.
"However, this relates to passengers needing to book last-minute travel following a bereavement and is obviously not relevant to this case," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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