Interislander denies shutting Facebook comments off was PR move amid Kaitaki ferry breakdown drama

Interislander has denied shutting down comments on its Facebook page following another ferry breakdown was a PR move.

Interislander's largest ferry - the Kaitaki - is out of action again after a gearbox fault, which was identified less than 24 hours after it began sailing again for the first time in five weeks. 

A technician from the Netherlands is urgently travelling to New Zealand to inspect the gearbox and the ferry is expected to be back up and running on the Cook Strait in two weeks.

Interislander has moved customers booked on the Kaitaki to the Aratere and Kaiarahi ferries, which are providing additional sailings to ease the pressure. 

But frustration is mounting for customers after comments were disabled on Interislander's Facebook page.

Interislander denies shutting Facebook comments off was PR move amid Kaitaki ferry breakdown drama
Photo credit: Facebook

Interislander's executive general manager Walter Rushbrook has now denied that disabling comments was a PR move.

"What we are doing is focusing on communicating with customers directly. We try to respond with all of our Facebook comments that are made and we just didn't have the band within our staff," Rushbrook told co-host Ryan Bridge on AM.

He said they have put extra people on in their call centres and staff are responding to customers in their email inbox.

When pressed by Bridge on whether dealing with passenger communications directly rather than publically was to limit the PR issues, Rushbrook responded "we are not walking away from that".

"You might see it that way, but look we are doing our best to communicate directly with our customers and get things back to normal as quickly as possible," Rushbrook said.

At the end of February, before the most recent breakdown, Consumer NZ lodged a complaint with the Commerce Commission, alleging Interislander and Bluebridge are misleading passengers about their rights.

The consumer watchdog believes the operators are not using reasonable care and skill in providing their services given the frequency of sailing disruptions, caused by mechanical issues.

It said the Consumer Guarantee Act requires ferry operators to provide a service that is fit for purpose and believes disrupted passengers are legally entitled to claim those costs back from the operator.

Interislander has two new rail-enabled ferries that are due to enter service in 2025 and 2026. It said these ferries will be game changers in terms of reliability.

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