A travel blogger claims her young family was left "shocked mentally and physically" and $US2100 ($A3134) out of pocket after she was attacked by another traveller ahead of their Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.
They were then barred from boarding, forcing them to spend "36 hours in a sweltering airport with no access to showers or as little as a cushioned chair".
Laura Georgioff, who was born in France and is now based in Florida, in the US, said she was physically attacked at Tahiti Faa'a International Airport in Papeete on January 24 after telling a child who had taken toy blocks away from her own children - aged four, six and seven - that "they needed to share and play together nicely".
"The second I went to talk to the little girl, her mother jumped on me," Georgioff, who records her family's travels on her blog Frugal for Luxury, claimed.
Georgioff claimed the woman then "violently pushed" her against a playground wall, prompting her to raise her right arm in self defence.
"There was nothing I could have done other than raise my hand out of fear of being hit because she was extremely violent... Out of pure instinct and protection I raised my right hand and hit her nose, which wasn't bleeding until much later when she called the police."
Georgioff said she believes she would have sustained a head wound and concussion if the wall hadn't been padded.
About half an hour after border police and airport security spoke with the two families about the incident, airline staff told them they would not be allowed to board the 2:30am flight because the captain had decided they could pose a danger to others.
With the next Air New Zealand flight not set to leave for another 48 hours, the Georgioff family opted to fly with Air Tahiti Nui and spent two nights - a total of 36 hours - in the airport.
Georgioff said she, her husband Christian and their three children slept on "dirty" floors in the unconditioned airport "sweating to roaring 30-degree-plus temperatures…"
Got physically attacked by another mom 40 min. before boarding last night. My instinct was to hit back -> @FlyAirNZ denied our family boarding! We are now spending 2 nights and a full-day w/o A/C, on the airport floor! They made us no-show - can’t reschedule - $2,100 hit! #travel pic.twitter.com/ZHZ5PtvXSN— Laura | Frugal For Luxury (@FrugalForLuxury) January 24, 2020
The incident, she said, left the whole family "shocked mentally and physically". Her children "cried profusely" after witnessing the altercation, while Christian has since developed a severe stomach ulcer, she said.
New Zealand is the second stop on the family's planned 18-month world month tour and, on a "very small budget", Georgioff said they could barely afford a taxi to a resort let alone an unplanned couple of nights at one.
While the family had already checked in and passed through security, Air New Zealand marked them as "no-shows", Georgioff said, meaning they had to pay for new flights and weren't covered by their travel insurance policy.
"Because of the wrongful no-show flag on our ticket, we had to purchase entirely new tickets on board the next available flight." Flights, she said, which "made a big hole in our budget".
After Georgioff complained about the incident on social media, the airline marked their tickets as "offload" but they still had to buy new tickets, she said.
"The airline and pilot should have at least heard us out or reviewed the security cameras before stranding us at the airport. Our family was attacked and, while both families were prevented from flying, we were victims and should have been able to fly. If not, our tickets should have at least been flagged in a way allowing us to rebook our flights."
An Air New Zealand spokesperson confirmed that two customers were involved in an altercation in the departure lounge of Papeete airport on January 24 and were subsequently denied boarding.
"Both parties were advised on the evening of the incident to contact our Tahiti travel centre to be rebooked on an alternative service. Air New Zealand has no record of this party contacting our travel centre," the spokesperson said.
Georgioff, however, claimed she was told by airline staff and her travel agent in the US that they had been marked as no-shows so would have to buy new tickets.
A message from the travel agent to Georgioff said that, as the tickets were non-refundable and changes were only permitted until three hours before departure, the flights could not be rebooked.
A message from Air New Zealand to Laura via Twitter advised her to contact her travel insurance provider "regarding the reimbursement of any associated costs".
The Air New Zealand spokesperson said the airline would not allow any passenger to board if staff are concerned they may pose a threat to others.
"The safety of all passengers and crew on board is paramount and non-negotiable at Air New Zealand."
NO SHOW V DENIED BOARDING
Aviation expert Irene King said neither family should have been flagged as a no-show as "a no-show is someone who has not checked in or identified themselves to the customer service agent."
The airline would have decided not to let them board the flight, so effectively they were denied boarding, she added.
"In denying boarding, the airline has no responsibility to look after the passenger," she said, adding that this is because they have infringed airline standards.
"It's a very harsh environment and passengers must understand this. The airline will not put others at risk or potential risk."
Passengers who find themselves in a situation such as the Georgioff's should firstly take the matter up with Air New Zealand customer service staff, she said.
"It is very unusual that a whole group is denied boarding so the situation and circumstances must have been concerning, but the innocent party can and should seek redress."
If this does not resolve the issue, King recommends contacting consumer affairs.