Stranded at Changi Airport: Some passengers told 'no flight until March' due to Auckland floods

For a traveller, there's nothing more frustrating than to be stranded at a foreign airport – especially if the flight to your destination has been fully booked for at least the next few weeks or so.

And that's what happened to hundreds of Air New Zealand passengers stranded in Singapore after their flights en route to Auckland were cancelled without prior notice.

This comes as the country's largest city grappled with heavy floods last week that inundated the airport as well, causing runways to all aircraft to be closed for around almost two days.

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According to the New Zealand Herald, hundreds of passengers stuck in Singapore were told that there were "no flights [to Auckland] until March".

Representatives of Air New Zealand were reportedly told at the airport that flights were extremely full, and that they were doing their best to rebook travel.

"Even before all this happened, the flights were all fully booked until at least March," a representative told passengers.

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'Growing travel insurance claim'

Passenger Richard told the newspaper that he and his family have been trying to find a flight back home for the past three days while "counting a growing travel insurance claim".

He was among 270 passengers who were supposed to be on flight NZ283 which was reportedly cancelled on Friday (Jan 27).

Another passenger, Jamini Patel, was also supposed to start a new job back home in Auckland on Feb 1, but said that she will not be able to make it in time now, reported Newshub. 

The 20-year-old aired out her frustrations with Air New Zealand, claiming that the staff kept hanging up on her calls and saying there was nothing they could do.


"It was my first time travelling alone on a long-haul flight so I was already nervous and quite anxious about it all.

"When the news of the flooding and flight cancellation came, it was even more worrying because I had only come to Singapore with enough money for my layover [which was enough] to eat about two meals," Patel said.

She was supposed to fly to Auckland on Jan 27, but was told her flight would be cancelled after sitting in the plane for approximately an hour.

When Newshub spoke with her on Monday, she said she had been stranded at the airport the entire weekend.

"It was very emotional for my family because they couldn't do anything to help and I had a couple of breakdowns about it too because being in a different country alone was very overwhelming," Patel said.

"Most people left and other cheaper places to stay. We had to look for food on our own. [Air New Zealand] were very difficult to deal with when we were trying to rebook flights too."

This traveller later managed to find another flight to Brisbane.

Both Richard and Patel told the media that they received a letter from the airline, where they were told their flights would be rebooked after 48 hours.

Speaking to AsiaOne on Tuesday, Patel said that she was "very overwhelmed" and "wanted to get home as soon as possible".

She was returning from a trip to India to attend a family wedding and was supposed to transit for 11 hours in Singapore. Instead, she ended up spending 53 hours.

She is still currently in Brisbane and has managed to book for a flight back to Auckland on Thursday morning.

Air New Zealand also offered to pay for their accommodation "as a gesture of goodwill" in the letter. However, expenses for subsequent nights would not be covered by the airline.

"I was given accommodation for one night at M Hotel and had to pay NZ$260 (S$220) for the second night onwards," Patel confirmed.

Nonetheless, Patel said that she met some "lovely people" who offered to go sightseeing with them on the first day she was stranded in the country.

"When I was upset about [not] being back, they were there to comfort and reassure me that we'll find a way back home," she recalled.

Responding to media queries by Newshub, a spokesperson for Air New Zealand said "we're hoping to have an update on Singapore for you shortly". 

Some seats now available

In a Facebook post uploaded on Tuesday, the airline thanked passengers "for their patience" and reassured customers that they were working on getting over 9,000 disrupted passengers back to the country safely.

According to the Straits Times, Air New Zealand passengers can now board a Singapore Airlines flight tonight at 10.25pm to Auckland, as there were 100-odd seats that were still available.

The airline said it is currently working with Singapore Airlines, its Star Alliance partner, for a bigger aircraft to the city.

Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty told the newspaper: "This service (on Tuesday) departs at 10.25pm local time and has seats available for customers needing to get out of Singapore tonight."

"Customers are asked to please e-mail with your booking reference as soon as possible, and the airline will do their best to get as many passengers as possible on that service".

The airline is also currently working on re-booking for around 1,200 passengers.

It is unclear how many people are affected by the flight cancellation, a spokesperson for the airline said.

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