Passengers on Air New Zealand’s inaugural flight from New York arrived in Auckland this morning after a marathon 17 hours in the air – only for many to discover their bags hadn’t made it.
Flight NZ1 departed from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport at 11.51pm on Saturday, local time – two hours later than its scheduled departure time, according to Flight Radar.
The flight landed in Auckland shortly after 8.30am on Monday morning, an hour later than scheduled.
According to RNZ, many passengers on the flight found their luggage had been left in New York, with one passenger reported as saying only business class and Koru members had their bags.
Rebecca Barton, who lives in New York and had booked the flight to visit home for the first time since 2019, was among the economy passengers whose luggage didn’t arrive.
She said there had been issues at check-in, with a mix of Air New Zealand staff and what appeared to be JFK staff manning the desks.
“It kind of seemed like the JFK staff were in training.”
Barton said as she and her husband had already checked in online, they thought it would be relatively straightforward at the airport. However, despite being around eighth in the queue, they ended up standing in line for an hour and a half while staff attempted to process the passengers and their bags.
Barton said she believed the delays at check-in would have led to the flight’s late departure. Having missed their take-off time, the plane then went to the back of the runway queue, which meant they were left sitting on the tarmac for at least an hour.
Upon arrival at Auckland, Barton and her husband went to collect their baggage, but after about 15 minutes, the conveyor belt stopped.
An announcement was then made asking Barton and about 10 other passengers to make their way to the baggage handling desk, where they were told their bags had not made it.
Barton said the staff member at the desk told her there were “many more” whose names had not been read out who had also been affected.
The staff member said the bags would arrive tomorrow and be delivered to passengers, but did not offer any other explanation, Barton said.
While the flight itself had been good, the experience at check-in and arrival had been frustrating.
“When they announced this flight, we thought we’d hit the jackpot not having to transit with another airline, through another airport. We thought if it’s just one flight, hopefully everything will go smoothly.”
Another passenger, Chad Selbert, said he and others waited at the baggage belt for about 40 minutes, until they were told they were told they would need to go to baggage services.
Everyone then rushed over, and it took about another hour in line waiting to share their details so they could be reunited with their bags.
David Tong said he felt like “one of the lucky ones” as he got his bags and was able to make his connection through to Wellington in the nick of time.
But Tong – who was travelling in economy, but has Gold status with the airline – agreed it felt like the ground staff weren’t prepared for check in, with just two uniformed Air New Zealand staff behind the check-in counters alongside the New York-based staff.
“For such a heavily promoted media launch, it’s sad they didn’t have their systems in place. I really felt for the staff on the ground, because it felt like management had focused on the PR side but not done all the logistics.”
In a statement, Air New Zealand chief operating officer Alex Marren apologised for the inconvenience caused.
“Unfortunately given additional fuel requirements due to adverse weather, some customer bags were unable to be loaded in New York and we are getting them to New Zealand as soon as possible,” he said.
“We are in touch with customers to update them and reunite them with their bags.”
With a scheduled flight time of 17 hours, 35 minutes, the flight from New York to Auckland is one of the longest in the world.
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