Jetstar Airline Criticized For Offloading Auckland To Rarotonga Passenger's Bags

Airline defends action saying it is a matter of safety

By Cameron Scott 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 3, 2017) – After first sidestepping the question of why Jetstar passengers to Rarotonga sometimes have their baggage unloaded in Auckland, the airline’s media adviser has supplied a more detailed explanation.

Yesterday CI News asked Phil Boeyan why there were sometimes complaints from Jetstar passengers about offloaded luggage, but no similar complaints from Air New Zealand or Virgin passengers.

The media adviser said simply that weather forecasts for flight planning could change throughout the day, right up to the scheduled departure time.

“And airlines operate different aircraft at different times of the day,” he said in an email to the newspaper.

After CI News pointed out he hadn’t answered the question, Boeyan clarified his explanation, saying airlines used different aircraft, flew at different times of the day and had their own flight planning protocols.

“These can all affect the weight and balance requirements for each individual flight.

“For example the weather forecast may vary depending on when a flight is scheduled to depart – so if an airline departs in the morning the forecast may be OK, but later in the day it may change. Our departures are all in the evening from Auckland.

“I can’t speak for other airlines, however for Jetstar, if we need to take additional fuel due to a forecast of poor weather in the region, we need to ensure the aircraft is not overweight, and that means we sometimes need to offload baggage.

“We realise this is inconvenient to our customers and we apologise, but safety comes first.”

It was revealed yesterday that of the 156 passengers who boarded a Jetstar flight from Auckland to Rarotonga on Friday night (CI time), 38 missed out on having their luggage transported – and they were not reunited with it until yesterday morning.

Jetstar said it had apologised to passengers who had arrived in Rarotonga unaware their luggage was not on the flight.

A story on the incident appeared on New Zealand’s “1 News Now” website yesterday. 

In it, Boeyan said informing passengers their luggage would be offloaded in advance was not always possible due to weather conditions changing at any given time.

Among the passengers whose luggage was offloaded on Friday was New Zealand eye surgeon Dr Paul Rosser who is visiting the Cook Islands on an annual voluntary mission to perform cataract surgery on local patients.

He was left without his personal luggage as well as his surgical equipment for two days. 

Dr Rosser said after being asked by a Jetstar staff member to choose which bag he would prefer to be sent the next day when checking in at Auckland Airport, he had been told the off-loading question was “just-in-case”.

He said he had stressed both bags were needed as around 10-12 patients would not be able to get cataract surgery for another year if his equipment wasn’t with him by Monday (CI time), when he was set to begin operating.

Dr Rosser discovered his bags hadn’t been sent after checking the conveyor belt on arrival in Rarotonga.

“There has been absolutely no communication from the airline whatsoever… and especially in regard to any apology, explanation as to why this occurred, any reparation, or confirmation of when the bags would arrive,” he told 1 News Now.

“I had to immediately go to town the following morning to buy various items of clothing, toiletries… as nothing else came with me apart from a computer and book.”

In an email to 1 News Now, Boeyan said urgent delivery of Dr Rosser’s bags had been arranged for Sunday night.

However, the other 37 passengers were still without their luggage on Monday.

The “priority” remaining offloaded bags had arrived in Rarotonga early yesterday morning.

He told 1 News Now passengers would receive an apology letter and Jetstar would reimburse “reasonable costs” for essential items if customers put in a claim.

“We always review these incidents to see where we can improve communications with our customers.”

There were complaints to CI News about Jetstar in December last year after a flight arrived here minus what was described as “100-plus” items of luggage. It took three days for the airline to get the missing luggage to Rarotonga.

One passenger complained her daughter’s medication had been in one of the bags.

She said the airline had only responded to her complaints after she posted a message on Jetstar New Zealand’s Facebook page.  

Cook Islands News
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