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Air NZ's message to dead man: 'We’re sorry your plans have changed'

Author
Grant Bradley,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 May 2024, 10:59am
Air NZ is working to speed up refunds after delays increased. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Air NZ is working to speed up refunds after delays increased. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Air NZ's message to dead man: 'We’re sorry your plans have changed'

Author
Grant Bradley,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 May 2024, 10:59am

Air New Zealand says it is working to speed up refunds after telling a woman whose father died that she could have to wait five weeks for a refund. 

“I was shocked to learn it would take five weeks to get the money back. That’s a long time for reversing a credit card payment,” she said. 

Air NZ eventually sped the process up for the woman and the payment was made in three days, but in doing so sent an email referencing her father’s name and saying: “We’re sorry your plans have changed and we won’t be seeing you”. 

Her father died earlier this month and was due to fly to Perth later this year. 

“My father was due to travel in September - you’d think it’s pretty cut and dried that if someone is dead they’re not going to be able to travel.” 

Air New Zealand said it was a reverse credit card payment and paid with Airpoints too. 

The woman received an automated response initially. 

The airline’s general manager of customer care Alisha Armstrong said Air New Zealand understood quick reimbursement of a refund request was “incredibly important” for customers, and staff worked hard to process refunds as fast as they could. 

The airline also said the customer was paid within three days, most compassionate requests were paid within a week, and the initial response was automated. 

Air New Zealand has now refunded the man's grieving family. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Air New Zealand has now refunded the man's grieving family. Photo / Dean Purcell. 

When she contacted Air NZ, the woman explained her father had died and was told it was continuing to receive a high number of refund applications. 

“Our team will review your request and get back to you as soon as possible. Please note our current wait time for a new refund application is five weeks, which may vary depending on the nature of the refund,” she was told by an automated email. 

After the Herald contacted Air NZ she received an email the following day which said the refund would be processed within 15 working days. 

But it did mention her father by name and said: “We’re sorry your plans have changed and we won’t be seeing you. We can confirm your booking has now been cancelled”. 

Armstrong told the Herald that the majority of customer refunds (around 90 per cent) were processed and paid within a few days. 

The remaining refund requests were typically more complex and required manual processing which took an average of 25 days. 

It said only about 10 per cent of refund requests took longer than 25 days, and that was due to the “complexity” required to process them. 

“We prioritise compassionate requests to support customers in difficult circumstances. We’re working hard to reduce the maximum refund processing timeframe and our goal is to bring that down to two weeks.” 

She said overall, refund request volumes were down but the volume of requests requiring manual support increased by 20 per cent over the past 12 months. 

“This is driven by a range of factors, such as increases in customers using multiple payment types, which makes a refund more complicated to process.” 

Asked what was being done to cut the wait time for refunds, she said the airline was continuing to focus on automating more refund requests and training more staff with the skills to process refunds. 

‘‘We’d like to thank our customers for their patience while we work hard to process their refunds as quickly as possible.” 

Since the pandemic hit more than four years ago Air New Zealand service levels have been under fire at times. Long delays getting through to the airline prompted it to set up a contact centre in the Philippines as it struggled to recruit enough staff in this country. 

Grant Bradley has worked at the Herald since 1993. He is the Business Herald’s deputy editor and covers aviation and tourism. 

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