$1000 apology from Air NZ for Hawaii stranding

Air New Zealand is trying to sweeten a raw deal for passengers who have been stranded in Hawaii since Sunday night (NZT) by issuing a $1000 apology to each passenger. 

The airline said it “unreservedly apologises” to the 227 passengers who had been stranded in Honolulu due to the ongoing problems with the plane scheduled to fly them to Auckland. 

It said it would compensate every passenger $1000 in either cash or Airpoints Dollars, costing the airline $227,000. 

Flight NZ9, which was now scheduled to operate as flight NZ6889, from Honolulu to Auckland, was now expected to depart tomorrow morning (NZT).

Earlier today the flight had been tentatively scheduled to depart around noon (NZT), the departure time was then shifted until 4pm (6pm Monday local time), but the latest from Air New Zealand had the plane on the ground until 5.30am (7.30am Tuesday local time).

The aircraft was now expected to arrive in Auckland at 2pm on Wednesday.

The problem with the plane was that although there was no fault with the engine, the indication system had been showing there was an issue.

The further delay was due to the replacement part, sourced from within the United States, failing to resolve the issue as expected.

Another replacement part was currently en route to Honolulu from Auckland where engineers were standing by to fit it this evening.

However, that work was unlikely to be completed until the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Nearly half the customers affected by delays would arrive in Auckland this evening on Hawaiian Airlines, but the remaining passengers would have to wait until tomorrow morning to leave Honolulu. 

Air New Zealand general manager of customer experience Carrie Hurihanganui said the decision to offer the money was made due to the lengthy nature of the disruption, the difficulty the airline had experienced in adequately communicating with customers, and the fact it had repeatedly let them down. 

The passengers were sent to hotels while waiting for the plane to be fixed.

The passengers had travelled to Honolulu Airport on three occasions expecting to fly, but on each occasion the aircraft had been unable to depart because of a series of evolving engineering issues, she said. 

Hurihanganui described the circumstances as an “unfortunate combination of events”. 

The airline said it recognised passengers had been significantly inconvenienced.

"However, aircraft safety is paramount and non-negotiable and our team is working as quickly as possible to resolve the situation."

Some passengers had taken to Twitter to provide updates of the progress, or lack of it, in getting them to Auckland.

Among them is businessman Sam Morgan. In his latest tweet he questioned why Air NZ did not have a webpage or Twitter feed to keep stranded passengers updated.

Why can't @flyairnz just keep a webpage or twitter feed updated so the 227 stranded are informed about buses, hotels, etc. No ownership.

— Sam Morgan (@samfromwgtn) July 28, 2014

@samfromwgtn @FlyAirNZ Just had the phone call saying 6pm but the AirNZ app says 11pm now. Online or email updates would have helped.

— Nick Dwan (@Southern_Detour) July 28, 2014

Doug Wilson also took to Twitter to vent his frustrations at the long stopover his children and grandchildren were putting up with in Honolulu: "Our kids and grand kids making their 3rd bus trip to Honolulu airport trying get home."

Wilson's son, his wife, and their two children, aged three and six, were due to arrive back in Auckland at 10.30pm tonight after waiting out long delays in Honolulu.  

Wilson said the children found it difficult to cope with the delays and the parents had to deal with a lack of information from the airline.

"Air NZ gets a big fail for communication." 

The family were provided with hotel rooms for two nights but arrived at the hotel in the middle of the night both times and had to make three trips to the airport, with long waits, Wilson said.

While he thought the compensation offered by Air New Zealand was adequate, it did not make up for the spoiling of a holiday, he said.

Hurihanganui said Air New Zealand was sorry to have let its customers down and would conduct a full review to see how it could have managed the disruption better.