'I never thought I'd be glad to say that I'd left Hawaii'

Frustrated Air New Zealand passengers have slammed the airline for poor customer service and a lack of communication and sympathy as they touched down in Auckland after three days stuck in Hawaii.

Some of the last of the 227 passengers of Flight NZ09 from Honolulu finally reached their destination this afternoon after the flight was grounded following an indication failure.

The Boeing 767 was finally fixed this morning after an aborted takeoff on Sunday night [NZ time].

Tired and frustrated passengers arriving into Auckland International Airport this afternoon were consistent with their criticism of the airline describing the poor communication as "unbelievable".

Lianne Killick, who was travelling with her husband Al and 9-year-old son Cooper, said: "We understand that safety is paramount, but it was the lack of communication.

"Everyone was very patient with Air New Zealand staff but after four days ..." 

Even the offer of $1000 compensation, which she said reached passengers through APNZ and the New Zealand Herald, rather than airline staff, was "really insulting".

She described sitting in an open air terminal in sticky 30degC heat with no air conditioning or water provided.

"Some of the comments made by staff over there were almost like, 'what are you complaining about, you're on a tropical [island]'.

"We were in 30degC heat, no air conditioning and queue after queue after queue in an airport. We weren't on a beach having pina coladas."

Brianna Maynard, 21, said it was "so good" to be home, after her flight from college in New York, via LA and Hawaii took three days longer than expected.

"I never thought I'd be glad to say that I'd left Hawaii," she said, after being greeted by her parents in the international arrival gate.

"If we'd known it would take three days then we could have done stuff, but it was wake up, shower, go to the airport, wait, come back, shower, wake up, same thing."

Passengers doubted the plane would take off this morning after days of broken promises from Air New Zealand.

"We were like, 'I'm not going to believe it until I see it', and then the plane takes off and it was 'woohoo'."

Greg Britt, from Christchurch, said it was "quite a relief" to be back in New Zealand.

"People think we had an extra few days off in Hawaii, but there was no time off," he said, describing everyone as "shot" with tiredness.

"When the 11pm flight was cancelled [on Sunday NZT] we didn't get in taxis until 4.30am the next morning, some people with kids not until 5am the next morning. And then we got woken up early the next morning back to the airport, we had to wait again all day until 1.30am the next morning."

He described the customer service from Air New Zealand as "absolutely appalling".

"I've never seen anything like it in my life."

Mr Britt, who works as a magician in Christchurch, said he was forced to stand up and make an announcement to fellow passengers that last night's flight was cancelled after ground staff failed to notify them.

The handling of taxi and hotel bookings was botched and people were left stranded at the airport forced to make their own bookings he said.

Mr Britt described the offer of compensation as "always appreciated, [but] it won't take away the problem".

Airline 'failed 200 customers'

Meanwhile, the Air New Zealand chief executive has told staff to lift their game after the flight from Honolulu to Auckland was delayed for more than two days.

Christopher Luxon told staff in an internal memo that the airline had "failed 200 customers", and he challenged staff to "step up to another level".

"No matter where you are in our global network you have probably read or heard about our poor management of customers affected by the three-day delay to NZ9 that was due to operate from Honolulu to Auckland on Sunday night New Zealand time," he said.

"I am personally overseeing a detailed review of all aspects of the delay and our management of it from both an operational and customer experience perspective.

"Put simply we failed more than 200 customers and as Chief Executive Officer I am ultimately accountable for this," he said.

The long delays in the flight sparked complaints of mishandling and poor communication from passengers.

The flight has finally touched down in Auckland this afternoon, more than 56 hours after its original arrival time.

The airline last night we issued an apology to passengers, and offered what Mr Luxon said was the "exceptional step" of offering $1,000 compensation.

"While some may say we didn't need to spend nearly $250,000 doing this, it's the right thing to do as we simply let them down and more importantly let ourselves down.

Mr Luxon thanked some individual staff for their efforts in his memo.

He said the airline needed to "reflect on the recent media headlines around the issue involving two pilots and cockpit entry issues on a Perth-Auckland flight, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission report into a landing at Christchurch, the former cabin crew member accused of importing drugs sewn into his uniform, and the bussing of passengers from Christchurch to Nelson during the storm at Easter after flight cancellations."

"I would like to be explicitly clear that I expect the highest standards from all Air New Zealanders and our suppliers. Over the past 74 years tens of thousands of people have worked to make this airline what it is today. We are the custodians of their legacy and as we head into our 75th anniversary next year we need to be building on it. I know we can all do this and be much better."

 

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