Husband 'offloaded' from Air New Zealand flight after wife ordered to give up seat

When Beth Chapman was told to give up her seat on an Air New Zealand flight, her husband, Peter, reluctantly left instead.
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When Beth Chapman was told to give up her seat on an Air New Zealand flight, her husband, Peter, reluctantly left instead.

A couple's weekend getaway to Queenstown for a family reunion and wedding was rudely interrupted when Air New Zealand said one of them would have to give up their plane seat to make way for a staff member.

Beth and Peter Chapman say their treatment was "appalling" and the airline failed to follow its own protocol about oversold flights.

The Auckland couple came forward with their February experience after United Airlines' forceful removal of a passenger from an overbooked flight earlier this week.

The couple were headed to Queenstown for a wedding and family reunion.
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The couple were headed to Queenstown for a wedding and family reunion.

Beth Chapman, 59, had hoped the trip would take her mind off her recent breast cancer diagnosis - something she'd barely had a chance to discuss with her husband or their kids.

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The couple had booked the trip seven months earlier, as soon as they got the invitation to their nephew's wedding.

AIR NZ'S 'GUARANTEE'

Their troubles began at the boarding gate on February 22. When Beth Chapman scanned her boarding pass, she got a message telling her to go to the Air New Zealand desk.

"The lady at the counter said 'because you have bought the cheapest tickets', we were on standby," Beth Chapman says.

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That staff member reprinted boarding passes for her and her husband - both of which now said "standby"; however, on a phone call with Air New Zealand minutes later, a representative promised there would be no issue with them catching their scheduled flight.

"We said we were husband and wife, travelling to Queenstown for a wedding, and she said 'we guarantee that you'll be on that flight'," Beth Chapman says.

But the guarantee didn't last.

ORDERED OFF FLIGHT

They had already boarded the plane and fastened their seatbelts when Beth Chapman was told she couldn't fly, as the airline needed to transport five crew members. 

"I said 'no, I'm not going, I'm not getting off. This is ridiculous'," she says.

"Never, ever did they ask for volunteers. At no stage, did they say 'would anyone like to offload?'. Nothing. They just came and pointed at me."

Her husband reluctantly agreed to leave in her place, because the couple were concerned they might be barred from flying at all if they caused a scene.

Peter Chapman was moved to the next flight, and given a $200 voucher in compensation, which the couple believed was inadequate.

They had also been offered additional Airpoints and a gift basket, but had instead asked for their daughter to have an Airpoints status upgrade - which the airline declined.

WHY WAS SHE CHOSEN?

It appeared from emails between the couple and Air New Zealand that their fare price was the deciding factor, even though it was low due to them booking months in advance.

Beth Chapman says it's unclear why the crew member, for whom she was ordered to give up her seat, couldn't take the following flight.

"They didn't ask for volunteers. They followed none of their published procedure, none at all," Beth Chapman says.

"It was the rudeness, the way that we were handled - we were never spoken to, it was never explained to us. There was nothing. It was just 'Mrs Chapman, you're being offloaded'. That's it."

Beth Chapman said she had flown with Air New Zealand since - "unfortunately there's very little choice in New Zealand" - but the experience had been embarrassing and stressful.

However, despite the experience of the United Airlines passenger - who was dragged bleeding through a plane's aisle after refusing to disembark - the couple regretted not standing their ground against Air New Zealand.

"I wish we had both totally refused. I wish that Peter had just said 'no, I'm not going'. Of course, you don't like to create a scene at the time [but] our hands were forced, in a way."

Air New Zealand has been approached for comment.

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 - Stuff

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