A man is surprised Air New Zealand suggested travelling out of lockdown in Auckland to Hamilton to take advantage of the offer of a free-of-charge flight change.

 air new zealand boeing 777-219 inflight mid-air after taking off from hong kong international airport on chek lap kok island.Photo: camfoto/123RF


The man, who RNZ has agreed not to name, says he was helping a family member rearrange flights previously booked from Auckland to Wellington set for this week.

The flight was cancelled due to lockdown and converted into credit. The man then messaged Air New Zealand on Facebook asking about its policy towards waiving fare differences when rebooking flights.

It replied its policy did not allow that, but if they wanted to keep the same travel dates it could offer a free change to a flight out of Hamilton at the same cost out – as long as they met requirements about travelling between alert levels.

The man said this “unsolicited” offer was surprising.

“I couldn’t really believe it when they – albeit trying to be helpful – gave me advice, which seemed like encouragement even, on how to get … a free-of-charge flight change.

“It just seems a bit reckless.”

It comes as an Auckland couple – a lawyer and equestrian – are in hot water after fleeing the city, using essential worker exemptions and driving to Hamilton, then taking a flight to Queenstown via Wellington and driving a rented vehicle to Wānaka.

The man who had contacted Air New Zealand said he worried how many other people had got a similar message from the airline and may have taken it “as encouragement” to take flights from Hamilton using an essential travel exemption.

He said the rules about crossing between alert levels was very confusing for most people already.

“And so while everyone is trying to decipher what they can and can’t do, I think it just adds an extra incentive to walk in that grey area.”

He said Air New Zealand should have included other options in its response to him such as rebooking at a later date, not just giving the Hamilton option.

“A suite [of options] would have felt more comprehensive and responsible.”

Air New Zealand said in a statement its customer team “offered an option that would be suitable for someone travelling for essential purposes or from a region under alert level 2 as not all customers flying from Auckland live in Auckland”.

“We have made it very clear they would have to meet the travel requirements in place at the time.”