Two women have claimed that Air New Zealand removed them from a flight to Auckland Airport (AKL) simply because they were “too big”.

The passengers were on flight NZ 5002 from Hawke’s Bay Airport (NPE) in Napier on March 15, 2024.

One of the passengers, Angela Harding, said she and her companion had already boarded the flight and were seated when she felt a sudden pain in her arm.

Harding alleged that when she turned, she saw a flight attendant forcing down her seat’s armrest and speaking to her in an aggressive manner. She said the flight attendant had told them the flight could not take off until the seats were in proper positions.

Harding then said that her friend suggested the flight attendant should sit down while the plane was moving. The crew member reportedly replied: “I can get you both kicked off this flight.”

According to Harding, soon after the incident, an announcement was made via the aircraft PA system stating that everyone would have to disembark the plane due to an “inconvenience”.

After making the announcement, the flight attendant reportedly walked over to Harding and her friend and said that they should have bought four seats altogether because each of them required two.

The two women, who are both wheelchair users, soon disembarked but were separated from the other passengers. Harding and her friend were traveling with another woman who also required wheelchair access, but was seated separately on the flight. The woman was wheeled back to the flight when the rest of the passengers were asked to return to the plane. Meanwhile, Harding and her friend were asked to remain at the airport.

Harding claimed the airline told them that they would need to book new tickets to Auckland. However, the next available flight from Napier to Auckland was not for another two days.

Air New Zealand offered to pay for their food, accommodation and flights and also allowed them access to the lounge. Eventually, Harding and her friend were able to board a flight to Auckland later that day.

The women are now seeking compensation for the “hurt, humiliation and trauma” caused by the incident. The pair also claim they were discriminated against because of their size.

“My thoughts are they took me off because of my build, because of my size – our size had a lot to do with it. They didn’t say it was, they said it was an inconvenience,” Harding told media outlets.

A spokesperson for Air New Zealand told The Daily Mail that if a customer requires extra room and there is space available, airline staff will work to reaccommodate them on the aircraft.

However, the airline said it “strongly recommends” that customers get in touch with the airline before their flight to ensure a safe and comfortable journey.

The spokesperson said: “We are committed to treating all customers with respect and dignity and we apologize that these customers received an inconsistent experience. We will continue to work with the customer directly to address their concerns.”

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