WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A group of Air New Zealand passengers finally got airborne Tuesday after being stranded for three nights due to repeated delays from mechanical problems.
The upside? They were stuck in Hawaii. And every passenger is getting 1,000 New Zealand dollars ($850) in compensation.
Flight NZ9 was due to depart late Saturday from Honolulu for Auckland, but airline officials told the 227 passengers the plane was unable to leave because of problems related to an engine sensor.
They trekked out to Honolulu Airport twice more only to be told a similar story. Some took a flight on another airline.
The Air New Zealand flight finally left Tuesday morning. It is due to arrive in Auckland on Wednesday afternoon after crossing the international date line.
The airline issued an unusual public apology and promised that every passenger will be compensated with cash or the equivalent in a rewards program.
"Due to the lengthy nature of this disruption, the difficulty we've experienced in adequately communicating with customers and the fact we have repeatedly let them down, we have made the decision that in addition to our unreserved apology we will also be compensating each customer," Carrie Hurihanganui, the airline's general manager of customer experience, said in a statement.
Airline spokeswoman Kelly Kilgour said the problem lay with an engine indicator that was giving a false reading. She said a supplier subsequently sent an incorrect replacement part, but that the correct part had finally arrived and been fitted.
Not helping the airline's public image is the fact that Tim Murphy, the editor-in-chief of the country's largest newspaper, The New Zealand Herald, was one of the stranded passengers and had been posting on Twitter about his experiences.
Asked if the weather was hot in Hawaii, Murphy responded: "beautiful when you get out into it. Not so much when you're queuing perpetually and feeling like Tom Hanks living in the terminal!"