Jetstar refuses frantic family

KAY BLUNDELL AND MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013

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Jetstar is under fire again, after it refused to let an Otaki family fly to Christchurch to say goodbye to a dying relative because they were a few minutes late to check in.

The family got up at 5.30am and drove to Wellington Airport with their 4-year-old daughter and her 82-year-old grandmother, arriving about 7.43am for an 8.10am flight. Check-in closed at 7.40am.

They could not show their electronic tickets at the gate because they had been burgled four nights earlier, and their computer, camera and many other personal items were stolen.

A Jetstar representative said the family reached the counter at 7.50am, 10 minutes after check-in had closed, which was too late to accommodate them. He apologised for the family's stress.

The father, Tony, who did not want to give his surname because of the burglary, said they explained to counter staff  that they were flying to Christchurch to pay last respects to their terminally ill aunt.

But they were told they could not board because passenger number information had been shut off.

"I thought it was unfeeling and inhuman," Tony said.

The woman behind the counter looked blankly at them when they pointed out they did not even have any bags to check on, said mum Fleur.

"She showed no understanding or consideration of the circumstances and continued robotically with her duties."

They were told the next flight they could get on did not leave for nine hours. Stunned, they stood in the departure lounge looking at all the passengers who were yet to board their flight - which ended up leaving five minutes late.

A woman who overheard their conversation complained to Jetstar staff, but to no avail.

Fleur's elderly mother also challenged staff, but was told it was "policy".

"We were not offered any coffee vouchers, any apologies, nothing," Fleur said.

Because of the delay, they managed to spend only 90 minutes with their dying relative before having to fly home again.

"It was really poor," Fleur said.

"They seem to be an airline that provokes frustration and anger."

Grant Kerr, head of Jetstar New Zealand, said that, by the time the family reached the counter, it was 10 minutes after check-in had closed, which was too late to accommodate them.

"Our check-in team in Wellington took into consideration the family's situation and moved all members of the family free of charge to the next available flight to Christchurch."

Flights were not reopened for late passengers, in an effort to ensure planes departed as close to schedule as possible, he said.

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"We fully sympathise with the situation the family were in and apologise for the stress they experienced."

Consumer NZ spokesman Hamish Wilson said Jetstar should have been more flexible and compassionate, given the circumstances.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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