The problem with the special $50 fares that Air New Zealand were offering as “compassionate” was that they were only available on stand-by. The flights between Christchurch and Auckland were already fully booked, and the airline then sold an additional aeroplane’s worth of “stand-by” tickets on top of that, that could only wait until someone cancelled, or just didn’t show up. I was travelling by myself with three children, so I knew it would be a long wait to find a flight that had four seats available.
I didn’t realise it would be a 10 hour wait, most of it in a stuffy, windowless, claustrophobic stand-by area, filled with people that were desperate to leave, and already stressed and anxious from living through the aftermath of a major natural disaster. There was no seating, and part of the corner we were in was also the queue towards the group check-in. A flight got cancelled part way through the day, so suddenly flights were coming and going, and not one stand by passenger got their name called.
In the end, the check in staff suggested that if I could get myself from Palmerston North to Wellington, there were seats available on the flight to Palmerston North that was leaving right now, and that would be the only way I could fly out of Christchurch that day. If they couldn’t put me on a plane, I would just have to come back tomorrow and start again (not likely). Stand by fares are not refundable – that’s just the risk you take flying stand-by. I took it. Hubby got on the phone to my hosts-to-be in Wellington, and organised for one of them to drive the hour and a half each way to Palmerston North to collect us from there. Above and beyond the call of duty – I had been thinking I would need to find a bus or train, which was probably slim pickings by 6:30pm.
In the end it was 12 hours after we left home before we arrived at Porirua. I phoned Hubby to let him know we’d arrived, and there was no way I was ever going to go through that again. The return trip was rebooked (writing off the stand by tickets WINZ had already paid for – they’re non-refundable remember). If it’s going to take 12 hours to get there, I’d rather take the ferry and the bus than sit around in an airport (at least I’d be moving). There wasn’t much difference in price between the two modes of travel.