Air NZ 'racist' for questioning Tongan mum at Premium check-in, family claims

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The daughter of a woman at the Premium check-in on a flight to Tonga claims her mother was racially profiled by an Air New Zealand staff member.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, says her mother, a repeat Air NZ customer, was left in tears after the ordeal while trying to catch a flight to Tonga on Tuesday.

She posted an account of the experience to Facebook, which has been shared more than 3600 times and received 22,000 reactions.

The daughter says she took her mother to the Premium check-in area where she was "immediately confronted" by a staff member who told them they were in the wrong place.

"My mum says to her, no I'm in the right place thank you," the post reads.

The staff member then allegedly gestured toward the self-service kiosks saying they could also use them to check in.

"I then step in and say. Excuse me but we are in the right place my mother is travelling business class. She gives me this look and says ok then hand me her passport so I can double check before you can go on! [sic]"

The staff member confirmed her ticket, but was again told they could check in at the kiosks, at which point the mother started crying.

"My mum is such a softie and she wasn't feeling to well starts tearing up [sic]."

Air NZ says the mother was booked on a A320 aircraft which doesn't have a Business Premier cabin, meaning none of that class of ticket is sold for the flight.

However, she had a Works Deluxe ticket which includes entry to the Premium check-in area, the airline says.

The daughter claims to have then asked for help getting her mother, who is blind in one eye, from the Premium lounge to the aircraft, but staff questioned why she needed it.

She believes her mother was "treated unfairly".

"She was judged by the way she looked ( skin color and the way she dressed) she didn't have a suit on or have a briefcase or whatever but we do pay the same amount as those business people to travel and use the premium lounge !! [sic]

"I was so disappointed. I was more shocked! This shouldn't be the way they treat customers despite what they look like or which class they fly !!"

Air NZ says it was concerned to see the post circulating social media, but says the staff involved didn't recall any conflict or disagreement, nor was any captured on CCTV.

A spokesperson says they've investigated the claims in the post and have also been in touch with the family.

"We do sincerely apologise to this customer for any miscommunication that may have occurred regarding her check-in arrangements."

Newshub.