An Auckland woman says she was left humiliated and out of pocket after Air New Zealand asked her to leave a flight when her toddler refused to settle before take-off.
Elena Volkova was supposed to be travelling from Auckland to Christchurch aboard flight NZ527 on February 9, with her two young sons, Andrey and Dmitry Zhavoronkov, aged two and five respectively.
Instead, she found herself being asked to leave her flight because she was unable to get her child settled within a few minutes.
"My youngest was over-tired, and he was crying but he was likely to settle as soon as we got going," she said.
"The air hostesses were trying to give him biscuits for a couple of minutes but when that didn't work, one came back and said the pilot could not take off with unsettled passengers and we had to get off the plane again."
I was hardly given a chance to settle him, and I had never heard of anyone else actually being removed from a plane because of it
However, Air New Zealand spokeswoman Marie Hosking said the issue was not that the child was crying, it was that the youngster was not restrained in his seat.
"It is a Civil Aviation requirement that all passengers use seatbelt restraints during takeoff and landing," Hosking said.
"In this case the child was unfortunately refusing to be either seated or restrained. Despite everyone's best efforts, the child could not be convinced to be seated with the seat belt fastened and the flight's departure was at risk of being delayed, inconveniencing other passengers.
"The pilot in charge had no choice but to make the call for the family to disembark and be re-accommodated on a later flight once the child had calmed down."
Volkova said it was humiliating because "people were looking at me like I was a criminal".
"Children cry, and I understand that it's not nice for other passengers, but I was hardly given a chance to settle him, and I had never heard of anyone else actually being removed from a plane because of it," she said.
They were going to be placed on another flight an hour later, but by the time their luggage had been removed from the first plane, they were too late to get on the next one.
In the end, her youngest son was unable to fly at all and Volkova's husband had to abandon his own weekend plans with friends, to drive to the airport from Hamilton to pick up the youngest son.
Volkova and her oldest son eventually made it to Christchurch that day, but only one way of her youngest's return ticket was refunded.
Volkova said the airline's argument made "perfect sense", she just wished it was explained to her on the flight.
"Nobody explained it to me neither in the plane nor after that," she said.
"I thought the main concern was his crying and I focused on calming him down rather than getting him seated and buckled up.
"I think the staff lacked professionalism in dealing with children and parents in this situation."
- Fairfax NZ News/Stuff.co.nz