Overweight woman says Air New Zealand put her in small seat, leaving her bruised and upset

A Nelson woman claims she was left bruised after having to sit in a small Air New Zealand seat and says the incident has put her off flying with the carrier again.

Rebekah Siame told NZME she booked a more expensive "work deluxe" seat for a flight between Melbourne and Christchurch last month, which the Air New Zealand website says "will have a guaranteed empty seat next to you".

This was important to Siame, who NZME described as overweight and comfortable in her own skin, as she wanted to avoid having to sit by another passenger and causing them discomfort.

But after checking in, Siame says she found she had been moved to a bulkhead seat, despite having paid for the more expensive seat.

She said the bulkhead seat had less room and caused her distress.

"My legs were actually losing sensation, the [blood] flow had stopped, my feet were going pins-and-needles numb. It was really horrifying what I had to endure," she told NZME.

She said telling an air hostess would have been too humiliating as she didn't want to draw attention to the issue.

By the time she got to Christchurch, Siame says she had bruising down her thighs so she complained to the carrier.

The woman says they responded to her by saying she had been moved to make way for a passenger with medical requirements and that all seats were subject to "operational requirements".

Siame told NZME she had hyperthyroidism, meaning her metabolism didn't properly work.

She's disappointed she received no apology from Air New Zealand, and says the incident has put her off flying with the carrier again.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson told Newshub that "Work Deluxe fares guarantee a neighbour free seat next to you, not a particular seat".

The spokesperson said under their Conditions of Carriage, "we cannot guarantee provision of any particular seat" and the airline reserves "the right to reassign seats should we need to for operational reasons".

"This was the case on Ms Siame's flight where our team unfortunately needed to reassign Ms Siame's seat in order to accomodate another customer who required medical assistance.

"This customer was travelling with an assistant and therefore we would have been unable to offer Ms Siame an empty seat next to her if she was seated in her original seat."

The spokesperson said Siame checked in via a self-service kiosk which would have shown her the seat change and requested her to either accept the new seat or choose another avaiable seat.

"According to our logs, she did accept this change and this matter didn't come to the attention of our airport team.

"While we can appreciate Ms Siame’s reasons for not alerting the crew on board to her discomfort, had they been made aware they could have moved her to a more comfortable seat with an empty seat next to her."