25 Nov 2011

Plane pick-up not special treatment, says Key

5:06 pm on 25 November 2011

National Party leader John Key says he was not receiving special treatment when an Air New Zealand flight was diverted to New Plymouth.

The plane Mr Key was supposed to board in New Plymouth on Thursday evening had broken down and a flight from Nelson to Auckland was diverted there to pick up seven passengers.

Most of the group of passengers was made up of Mr Key and his support staff.

Air New Zealand spokesperson Mark Street also said it was not a case of special treatment for Mr Key.

Mr Street said flights are diverted on occasion when a plane has broken down and it meant the flight from Nelson was 20 minutes late getting into Auckland.

He said the normal process was followed in allocating the seats, with passengers selected on their frequent flyer status and the value of the airfare paid.

A passenger on the plane has questioned whether the airline was turned into Mr Key's personal flight service, and says a flight attendant even told passengers that John Key wanted them to vote for him.

Mr Street said the air hostess was making a light-hearted joke. He said she now realises it didn't go down well and is sorry if she caused offence.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff said Mr Key should give an absolute assurance that the Air New Zealand plane wasn't diverted just for him.

Mr Goff said it would be quite wrong if the plane was diverted solely for Mr Key and at the expense and inconvenience of the other passengers.

The Mana Party's Waitakere candidate, Sue Bradford, believes the plane was diverted simply to pick up Mr Key, and she says his actions are alarming and arrogant.

Mr Key said his party was process of making arrangements to stay overnight in New Plymouth and was surprised when Air New Zealand made contact about the re-routed flight.

He said he understands the airline has a policy that if a plane can be diverted and pick up passengers within about 20 minutes it will do so.

Asked about the flight attendant's comments on voting, Mr Key said anyone who objects to that should get a sense of humour.