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Budget airline ‘won’t harm’ Cooks brand

Tuesday October 08, 2019 Written by Published in Economy
Brenton Barker and daughter Georgia, waiting at the Edgewater for news of their flight out. Brenton Barker and daughter Georgia, waiting at the Edgewater for news of their flight out. 19100719

Tourists say ‘fantastic’ Cook Islands tourism experience tempered only by budget airline’s failures.

Tourist Brenton Barker and his daughter Georgia were at Rarotonga airport when Jetstar cancelled their flight home with no explanation.

They were among 100 passengers stranded and forced to sustain extra travel costs. “We’d never been treated so poorly,” shouted the headline in New Zealand media.

Barker said they had to make their own way back to the Edgewater resort, incurring travel costs he wants reimbursed.

“Jetstar provided $30 for meals for the day. This is far too low and in a day in a resort environment this will not cover food and drink costs. So we incurred more costs.”

Jetstar should be held to account for its actions: “I understand things can happen but it was the total lack of communication that I find deplorable,” Barker told Cook Islands News, yesterday.

The Edgewater Hotel did not receive any information from Jetstar during the delay, he added.

A Jetstar spokesperson said a crew member became unwell after arrival in Rarotonga, which meant the airline had to cancel the return journey from Rarotonga to Auckland.

“Our goal is always to get our customers to their destination safely and on-time and we sincerely apologise for the recent crewing cancellation and any issues around accommodation availability at short notice.”

Barker believed the airline should be held to account in accord with New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Act, consumer legislation and the responsibilities they hold when given the right to offer services to the region.

“For the Cook Islands this type of experience travel-wise detracts from our experience,” said Barker.

But he said all the Cook Islands service providers were “fantastic” and the people were “great”.

It was their first time in Rarotonga and during their holiday they had completed the cross-island walk and visited Aitutaki.

“It’s just such a shame it was impacted by our flight in being cancelled and our two attempts to fly out being cancelled, exacerbated by almost no communication from Jetstar,” said Barker.

From memory, he said he paid the airline $1600 for both him and his daughter for a return trip.

Overall, said Professor Simon Milne, surveys showed Cook Islands had a strong brand and an excellent reputation.

The Auckland University of Technology tourism head said the publicity about the delayed flight would not harm the Cooks’ brand.

“People will see this as an unfortunate incident that lies beyond the direct control of the destination,” Milne said. “The real damage is to Jetstar and its brand – not the Cook Islands.

“The coverage I have seen has been full of praise for the response of some local operators such as Air Rarotonga who, for example, provided water to waiting passengers.”