New Zealand Airline Trivializes Breast Cancer
When Jackie McKenzie got off the phone she started to cry. It was August and she had been diagnosed with breast cancer just days earlier—but that wasn’t the catalyst for her tears. McKenzie was upset with the flippant, belittling response of an airline representative in regards to her special request:
“Your application has been declined because it’s only breast cancer.”
Let’s back up a little. McKenzie, a 42-year-old mother from Christchurch New Zealand, was excited to enjoy a vacation with her family. She booked nearly $2,000 (roughly worth of flights with Air New Zealand to fly to Brisbane with her husband and daughter. Just days after the arrangements were set; McKenzie was diagnosed with breast cancer and was scheduled to undergo radiation treatment for the next nine months—to commence the same day she planned on flying out, which obviously interfered with her travel plans. McKenzie filed a ‘compassionate consideration’ application with Air New Zealand to postpone her flights and was declined because her ailment was “only breast cancer.” An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline does provide compassionate fares and refund credit on a case-by-case basis. Evidently, breast cancer radiation treatment wasn’t enough to qualify. McKenzie told Fairfax NZ News that the offer denial left her in tears.
“I hung up the phone, fell to my knees and just cried. I haven’t cried like that through this whole cancer scare. [The representative] belittled what I’m going through and when I have tried so hard to be positive about all this.”
After Fairfax Media, the parent company to Fairfax NZ News, got wind of this story and contacted Air New Zealand about boorish statement McKenzie was told the value of her fares would be held in credit until she was well enough to use them.
A representative from Air New Zealand released this statement:
“Air New Zealand accepts our contact center’s response to Jackie McKenzie as unsatisfactory. We have apologized and will put it right.”
McKenzie was grateful her vacation was not squandered,“That trip is going to be the light at the end of the tunnel for me,” McKenzie says.