Air New Zealand was recently forced to apologize to Wellington Saints chairman Justin Toebes after he was refused entry to a domestic flight.
Mr Toebes, a Wellington lawyer who has been with the team for over two decades, is currently confined to a wheelchair as a result of a motor neuron disease.
The 61-year-old, who is 6 feet 8 inches tall, was on his way to watch the Saints play in the National Basketball League this weekend in Invercargill.
Mr Toebes was informed that the airline did not have a large enough seat to get him on the flight. “I can’t walk, I can’t stand and they had no support. I got to Auckland domestic, to the plane, in my chair and they said I had to make other arrangements – they couldn’t take me,” he said.
“Two of the crew members offered to carry me in, but the lady said it was a health and safety issue, they couldn’t have the crew help me. Thankfully two of the men in the crew eventually overruled that person and helped me to my seat, but it was terrible,” he added.
Three days later, Air NZ apologised to Mr Toebes, sayung that they were not aware of his height, and didn’t have a sling that would allow them to transfer him. They aid that if he wishes to travel again to Invercargill for the upcoming finals, they will do everying to ensure a smooth journey.
“It was agreed between our Customer Care team and the agent that on his domestic flight we would use a special lifting device that can transfer customers from an aisle chair into their seat. Unfortunately we were unaware of this customer’s height and didn’t have a suitable sized sling available on the day to safely transfer him without the help of a safety assistant. Only our smaller sling for completing the transfer was available which would have been unsafe to use,” said Air NZ.
Mr Toebes has been with the team since 1992, acting as treasurer, president, and now chairman. He was given four years to live, which means that this could be his last change to watch the team play.