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Nelson lawyer's Air NZ travel ban remains

27 February 2020

A Nelson lawyer, Anjela Sharma, has lost her application for a mandatory interim injunction to have her one-year Air New Zealand travel ban lifted (Sharma v Air New Zealand Ltd [2020] NZHC 230). Last July Ms Sharma was banned from flying with Air New Zealand following an incident at the Koru Lounge.

She and her family were travelling from Nelson to Auckland and then onto a business class flight from Auckland to India with Singapore Airlines.

While in the lounge in Nelson Ms Sharma was challenged on her eligibility to be there. She argued that on her understanding, their business class tickets entitled them to use the lounge. Air New Zealand later generated a report describing Ms Sharma and her family as being loud, disruptive and intimidating during their dealings with the Lounge hostess.

While in India the Senior Manager of Security at Air New Zealand emailed Ms Sharma informing her of the terms and conditions of travel and of access to the Koru Lounge and telling her that she was not eligible for access to the lounge on return trip from India. He warned her that failure to comply with or accept the conditions would result in her not being permitted to enter the lounge, board a flight at the time of check-in/boarding, being offloaded, and/or being banned entirely from flying on Air New Zealand services in the future.

On 24 June 2019 Ms Sharma was denied online access to AirNZ’s website, and she again complained to the Chief Executive detailing the way in which Air NZ’s staff had treated her at a subsequent check-in in April 2019.

On 2 July 2019, Air NZ’s Senior Manager of Group Resilience, Mr Giles Carter, wrote to the applicant advising that as a result of her “recent intimidatory and aggressive behaviours towards Air New Zealand staff” she would be banned for a period of 12 months from travelling on Air New Zealand flights.

The High Court dismissed Ms Sharma’s application for a mandatory interim injunction to remove the 12-month ban.

The court considered the argument advanced by Ms Sharma that Air New Zealand had a contractual obligation to provide her with flight services and determined that a decision to refuse carriage will be lawful so long as it is not unreasonable in the sense that it is irrational, capricious, or unreasonable in the public law sense of being a decision that no reasonable decisionmaker could make. Any pre-boarding or on-board conduct which causes the respondent to have legitimate concerns, about whether a customer will comply with its conditions of carriage, entitles the respondent to give written notice to the customer under Article 7.1.11 of “Air New Zealand conditions of carriage”.

Ms Sharma failed to establish that she has an arguable case to support her claim that Air New Zealand acted in breach of contract by imposing the ban without having exercised reasonable discretion to do so. On the balance of convenience, the High Court found that the case strongly favoured Air New Zealand and upholding the ban was therefore a just outcome.

Last updated on the 27th February 2020