Over the years Air New Zealand has put passengers off flights to Tonga to save weight and warned its staff that Tongans are heavy drinkers.

Now the airline has had to apologise after a Tongan woman claimed Air New Zealand staff tried to turn her mother away from the Premium Check-in.

The woman alleged that Air New Zealand staff confronted her mother and told them they were in the wrong place.

The woman, who did not reveal her name, claimed in a Facebook post: “She was judged by the way she looked (skin colour and the way she dressed) she didn’t have a suit on or have a briefcase or whatever but we do pay the same amount as those business people to travel and use the premium lounge.”

An airline spokesperson said the A320 service to Tonga did not have a Business Premier cabin, but that the woman held a Works Deluxe ticket which included Premium Check-in.

The daughter said she told the staff her mother was blind in one eye and needed help getting to the aircraft.

Air New Zealand said they had investigated the incident and that there was no evidence of any conflict between staff and the passengers.

It said the airline had contacted the woman’s family.

In May last year Air New Zealand was the subject of complaints after it refused to let a woman board her flight to Tonga because the aircraft had reached its upper weight limit.

Auckland woman Alex Catchpole-Ozpınar complained after she was turned away from an Air New Zealand flight to Tonga.

She was one of several passengers turned away at the Air New Zealand check-in counter.

And in 2010 Air New Zealand was forced to apologise for an old crew manual which described Tongans as “softly spoken, reserved people” but warned many could “drink the bar dry.”

It suggested staff should keep an eye on Tongan passengers who could take advantage of free in-flight alcohol.

Tongan Advisory Council chairman Melino Maka said at the time that it was “extremely hurtful” for the airline to paint Tongans as “uncontrollable alcoholics”.

Air NZ said the manual had since been updated.

The main points

  • Over the years Air New Zealand has put passengers off flights to Tonga to save weight and warned its staff that Tongans are heavy drinkers.
  • Now the airline has had to apologise after a Tongan woman claimed Air New Zealand staff tried to turn her mother away from the Premium Check-in.
  • The woman alleged that Air New Zealand staff confronted her mother and told them they were in the wrong place.
  • An airline spokesperson said the A320 service to Tonga did not have a Business Premier cabin, but that the woman held a Works Deluxe ticket which included Premium Check-in.

For more information

Air NZ accused of racism over questioning of Tongan mum at check-in

Air New Zealand denies woman from boarding heavy Tongan flight

Air NZ sorry over manual’s Tongan drinking claims 

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