I had an amazing experience with Air NZ when my Dad died.
I’m going to send this to http://www.verygoodservice.com.
We had booked and paid for tickets (non flexible of course) for a holiday and first family reunion for 15 years in New Zealand..
Three weeks before we were due to fly my Dad died suddenly of a heart attack. He had no history of heart disease and was actually 5 km’s into a 110 km cycle race. Which is completely normal weekend behaviour for a 70-year-old man. The phone call came at 1 am as bad news always seems to come from New Zealand in the middle of the night. We had friends round for dinner so that spoiled the mood a bit. The next night Jen had to go away on business so I stayed up all night watching the email traffic going back and forth. Many tributes pouring in and people popping out of the woodwork I had not spoken to for years! The next night Jens plane was delayed so she didn’t get in until 2 am. The following night we agreed I would go to the funeral alone as we were unable to move any of the holiday plans so would have to cancel the accommodation and so on. We were able to cancel the places we had booked to stay but my plane ticket was not refundable or flexible. I now had to make some very urgent plans to go home to New Zealand.
I spoke to Air New Zealand about my ticket which was bought at cheapest rate of course, so set in stone. They informed me they could arrange a compassionate alteration to my booking and all I had to do was get confirmation of my relationship to the deceased. That’s easy enough to get from the funeral home, so sent it off to them and the ticket was changed. Due to time differences and urgency this was all completed at 3am Thursday morning UK time. I am now able to catch the flight leaving at 4pm that day. I leave home midday, very tired, and head on a long lonely trip. I am going home on NZ1, this must be the most evocative flight number of them all surely? As for the airport, London Heathrow, again, is there a more wonderfully named airport in the world? London Heathrow just radiates great adventures started and finished. NZ1 from London Heathrow to Auckland has an amazing resonance for we Kiwis. Almost makes me well up thinking of it. It’s the flight you take to home from the far end of the world.
When I got to the airport I was given a pass for the Business Class lounge even though I was travelling in economy. I was given an exit seat for the extra leg room. Once on the first leg of the flight. I saw a woman in a very smart uniform quite different to the cabin crew coming down the aisle. She stopped one of the crew and spoke to her and then the crew member pointed at me. I had my Ipod on but was wondering what was going on of course. The smartly dressed woman came over to me and leant in so I could hear. She took my hand and held it and said “Mr Abbot I am so sorry we aren’t meeting under more pleasant circumstances. I am so sorry to hear about your father. Is there anything at all we can do to make the trip more comfortable for you”. I said I was fine and then thought I should have asked for a front seat of course ! I was quite shocked actually and thought “how nice is that !” The woman was the concierge from Business Class. It’s a nice little service Air NZ have.
On the second leg from LA to Auckland the same thing happened with the new crew. Same concern and question. I asked for a brandy if one was going. I was bought a large glass of brandy from Business Class in a warmed glass and also a pair of very hi-tech noise cancelling headphones.
They could not have been nicer or more helpful and concerned. Top marks for Air New Zealand. I tell everyone that if you are travelling to NZ, the only way to go is Air NZ. But I have always felt that way. They just confirmed why I do. It’s best to go via LA. Feel free to ask me why, that’s another blog post one day maybe.
If you are interested, the following is what I said at Dads funeral.
As a footnote. When you are exhausted and emotional and haven’t slept properly for days. When you are two hours from home, where you havent been for five years. When you have flown around the world and you are going to bury your father. Do NOT listen to Hayley Westenra (who your father loved) singing Hine E Hine on your Ipod.Tuck that away for future reference