Budget airline changes woman's nationality

Cheap airline Jetstar has been fined after changing a Chinese passenger's nationality, which allowed her to board a New Zealand bound plane in Melbourne without a visa.

Airline staff in Australia changed the passenger's nationality from Chinese, with the country code ''CN'', to being from Switzerland, with the code ''CH'', which meant she could board the flight without the proper travel documentation.

The passenger was given a visa on her arrival at Christchurch International Airport as without it she would not have been allowed entry.

But the move "raised the ire'' of New Zealand immigration officials and resulted in the Department of Labour pursuing criminal charges against Jetstar.

The case was called at a Christchurch District Court hearing at Nga Hau e Wha marae this morning, where the airline's lawyers apologised for the act, which they admitted.

Defence counsel Michael Heron said the incident, on January 27, last year, had resulted in Jetstar retraining its staff and issuing specific instructions on how to avoid such an incident in future.

Judge David Saunders accepted that it was simply an error, with the country codes being very similar, and fined the airline $6,500 and ordered it to pay court costs.

The judge said: "Jetstar carries some two million passengers in its operations every year. There will, from time to time, be errors made by clerical staff. This was not a blatant breach of the Immigration Act. They have owned up to their error and responsibilities.''

He added that he hoped the fine would provide a "sufficient'' message to airlines for the need to be careful when processing travellers' information.


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