A German man says his 15-year dream of visiting New Zealand was dashed after his Air New Zealand flight was canceled less than 24 hours before it was due to depart.
He’s among the many travelers hit by last-minute cancellations this Christmas.
Alihan Kabal was due to fly to Auckland from Seoul, where he lives, on December 21 and said: “I was so excited to visit a place I’ve wanted to visit for 15 years”.
He checked in online but received a notification on the Air New Zealand app about 19 hours before scheduled departure that the flight had been cancelled.
“I was shocked and couldn’t believe it right away,” he said. “After checking various websites for a while to see if it was true that the flight was cancelled, I felt very miserable and angry… That’s when the nightmare started.”
Are you affected by flight cancellations? Email to [email protected]
* ‘Absolutely Disappointed’: Kiwis stranded by ‘bomb cyclone’ will miss Christmas in New Zealand
* Air New Zealand is rescheduling almost 2000 international flights for 2023
* Christmas plans canned after weather forces flight cancellations
He said he tried to call Air New Zealand’s office in Korea but it was closed for the day so he dialed the New Zealand contact center number but was cut off after 45 minutes.
A few hours later, he received a message from Air New Zealand that the aircraft scheduled for his flight was no longer available “due to difficult weather conditions on our international network”.
The airline said it was working on rebooking him on another flight, but noted that “due to low availability on this route, you may need to travel in the next few days”.
Kabal said he has not heard back from the airline, which has named both the Korean and New Zealand contact centers, but has also been unable to reach anyone.
“The international hotline now told me: ‘You have to wait longer than two hours’.”
About 12 hours after he checked in, the German website he used to book his flights, Flugladen.de, told him that the next available flight to Auckland was not until December 26.
Since this would almost halve his time in New Zealand, he decided to cancel the trip.
“My schedule in New Zealand was strictly planned to make the most of the two weeks I have for my holiday,” he said. “So booking six days later would mean I lose almost half of the time I will have to visit the country.”
An Air New Zealand flight to Rarotonga was diverted to Tonga to help a grounded plane.
Kabal had been looking forward to visiting New Zealand’s “extraordinary landscapes” and locations from “Lord of the Rings” films such as Hobbiton.
He reckons he now has to spend a decent chunk of his holiday getting refunds on his accommodation and car hire, as well as planned sightseeing.
“The main problem is that I had planned a trip that made my dream come true and I saved money for a very long time. Every part of this journey is over and I have to plan everything from the beginning… I have never been in a situation like this and I was someone who never thought of being in a situation like this. That’s why I’m still in shock and can’t really believe this actually happened.”
Air New Zealand announced on December 22 that it had changed flight times for nearly 2,000 international flights over the next year, leaving some problems with changing connecting flights and accommodation.
Leanne Geraghty, the airline’s chief customer and sales officer, said the changes were designed to “build flexibility and security into our network”.
International flights also saw changes this year, including flights to and from North America as a result of the Arctic storm that swept across the US and Canada.
As a result, some Kiwi expats will miss spending Christmas with their families.
Geraghty said the airline has canceled six flights to and from Chicago and Vancouver in recent days.
“Our teams have been and will be working tirelessly over the next few days to re-accommodate customers where possible. We want to thank them for their patience as we navigate these weather challenges.”
Geraghty said the airline is monitoring weather conditions to see if more flights are affected.
“At this time, with the weather expected to ease over the coming days, the airline’s flights to Chicago and Vancouver will resume starting today, Saturday December 24, NZ time.”
Geraghty acknowledged that news of the cancellations “can be worrying at this particular time of year,” adding that affected customers would be contacted directly.
Air New Zealand did not respond in a timely manner to inquiries about the situation from Kabal.
At the time of writing, Auckland International Airport’s arrivals board showed that three flights on December 24 had been canceled and two postponed.
The canceled flights were Jetstar flight JQ199 from Sydney, Air New Zealand flight NZ23 from Vancouver and Air New Zealand flight NZ27 from Chicago. The rescheduled flights were Korean Air Flight KE411 from Seoul and Air Canada Flight AC39 from Vancouver.
Flight information from Wellington and Christchurch airports showed no international cancellations for Christmas Eve.