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Air New Zealand customer unable to pay bills after $2225 deducted from account for failed bookings



An Auckland woman said she is unable to pay her bills after eight lots of $278 (NZ$300) – a total of $2225 – were deducted from her bank account for 'Skycouches' on Air New Zealand flights she is not booked on.

Emily Cordwell had booked return flights for her family to London over the upcoming winter and needed to change the return journeys due to work commitments, which could only be done by calling the airline.

After waiting on hold for three-and-a-half hours last Thursday, she was told she could either pay $2780 extra to move the flights or put them into credit.

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Needing to discuss the situation with her husband, she said she would have to call back – leading to a four-hour wait on hold that evening.

"I was walking around with the phone while putting my kids to bed, cooking dinner. It was just ridiculous," she said.

When she finally got though, her nearly $11,127 worth of flights were put into credit so she could book new ones. She thought the problem had been solved but, looking back, said "that's where they really started".

Finding new flights on the Air New Zealand website, she went through the booking process, opted to pay for them using her credit, and agreed for her credit card to be charged $278 for a Skycouch, which is used to turn a row of economy seats into a "couch" after take-off.

She then received an error message saying the fares or flights she had selected were no longer available as they had been sold out since she made her selection, and that her payment had not been processed.

She tried to book the flights four more times, but received the same message on each occasion.

After trying twice more the following morning, she checked her bank account online and was "shocked" to find that $278 had been deducted from her account eight times for the Skycouches, plus $315 in fees.

Emily Cordwell said she had spent more than 13 hours on hold over a 36-hour period trying to sort out her flights and refund.

While the $2540 transactions show as pending on her bank account, they have been deducted from her balance, leaving her more than $742 overdrawn and unable to pay for things, including bills.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson said Cordwell's initial Skycouch booking likely failed because the flights she had selected were no longer available.

"This can happen when partner airlines are included in the booking – there can be a slight delay in the back end to update availability. The website then invited them to try again – which the customer did, multiple times. Each time the customer attempted to book – and it failed – an authentication request was taken."

The spokesperson said the authentication requests were immediately reversed when the booking failed, meaning Air New Zealand is not holding the money.

"Authentication requests usually take about a week to drop off a credit card on their own," she said, adding that this is the case for New Zealand cards, but not necessarily for UK-issued cards like Cordwell's.

"We understand this isn't an ideal scenario and we're sorry this customer is currently experiencing this," she said.

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Air New Zealand charged a family for Skycouches on flights they weren't booked on.

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Cordwell said she had contacted her bank about the situation and been told that she needed to sort it out with Air New Zealand.

She had opted to receive a call-back from Air New Zealand on Friday, and said she received a voicemail from a staff member at about 1pm saying "hello" a couple of times before hanging up.

"And they never tried to call me again. So I got on the phone to them again on Friday afternoon and I spent four hours on hold while I picked the kids up from school, cooked the dinner, all that kind of stuff."

When she was giving the kids a bath, she accidentally ended the call.

"I actually cried at that point because I'd had all that money taken out, I had no flights, and I'd been on the phone for 12 hours at that point. I just couldn't believe it."

When she tried again at about 5.30am on Saturday morning, getting through after an hour, she said a "helpful" staff member offered to research flights for her and call her back.

Later that day, the staff member rang to say she had found suitable flights, and Cordwell booked them with her over the phone, attracting a $222 fee for doing so.

Cordwell said the staff member was unable to help Cordwell with the Skycouch transactions, telling her they would take drop off her account within eight to 10 business days.

"But what am I supposed to do for the 10 days?", Cordwell asked. "I am overdrawn and being charged overdraft fees. How am I supposed to pay for things?"

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This article first appeared on Stuff and is republished here with permission.

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