‘Sad they don’t have systems in place’: Baggage fails to arrive on first Air NZ flight from New York

Passengers on Air New Zealand’s inaugural flight from New York arrived in Auckland this morning after a 17-hour marathon in the air – only to find that their bags had failed.

Flight NZ1 took off from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport at 11:51 p.m. 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.

Were you on the flight? Email newstips@stuff.co.nz if you have been concerned.

According to RNZ, many passengers on the flight discovered that their bags had been left behind in New York, with one passenger saying only business class and Koru members had their bags.

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Rebecca Barton, who lives in New York and had booked the flight home for the first time since 2019, was among the economy class passengers whose luggage did not arrive.

Air New Zealand flights to New York are operated by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

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Air New Zealand flights to New York are operated by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

She said there were problems at check-in, with a mix of Air New Zealand staff and what appeared to be JFK staff manning the desks.

“It looked like JFK staff were in training.”

Barton said that since she and her husband had already checked in online, they thought it would be relatively straightforward at the airport. However, despite being about eighth in line, they ended up queuing for an hour and a half while staff attempted to process passengers and their luggage.

Barton said she believed the delays at check-in would have caused the flight to depart late. Having missed their takeoff time, the plane then found itself at the back of the runway queue, which left them sitting on the tarmac for at least an hour.

Upon arrival in Auckland, Barton and her husband went to collect their luggage, but after about 15 minutes the treadmill stopped.

An announcement was then made asking Barton and about 10 other passengers to proceed to the baggage handling counter, where they were told their bags had not arrived.

Barton said the staff member at the desk told him there were “many more” whose names had not been read who had also been affected.

The staff member said the bags would arrive tomorrow and be delivered to passengers, but gave no further explanation, Barton said.

While the flight itself had been good, the check-in and arrival experience had been frustrating.

“When they announced this flight, we thought we would hit the jackpot without having to go through another airline, through another airport. We thought that if there was only one flight, we hope everything will be fine.

Another passenger, Chad Selbert, said he and others waited at the baggage carousel for about 40 minutes, until they were told they had to go to baggage services.

Everyone then rushed out, and it took about another hour of queuing to share their contact details so they could be reunited with their bags.

David Tong said he felt like “one of the lucky ones” when he collected his luggage and was able to establish his connection with Wellington in no time.

But Tong – who was traveling economy class but has Gold status with the airline – agreed that ground staff were unprepared for check-in, with just two uniformed Air New Zealand employees behind the check-in counters alongside New York-based staff.

“For such a high-profile media launch, it’s unfortunate that they haven’t put their systems in place. I really felt for the staff on the ground, as I felt like management focused on the PR side but didn’t do all the logistics.

In a statement, Air New Zealand chief executive Alex Marren apologized for the inconvenience.

“Unfortunately, due to additional fuel requirements due to inclement weather, some customer bags could not be loaded in New York and we are moving them to New Zealand as soon as possible,” he said.

“We are in contact with customers to update them and reunite them with their bags.”

With an expected flight time of 17 hours 35 minutes, the New York-Auckland flight is one of the longest in the world.

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