Former MP and broadcaster Maggie Barry says a “minor misunderstanding” on a flight led to her being spoken to by police over what Air New Zealand described as an incident involving “abusive” behaviour towards cabin crew.
To the accusation, Barry rejected the airline’s assertion: “I saw no ‘abuse’ on the flight, and certainly there was none from myself to any cabin crew or passengers.”
Police confirmed to 1News that they attended to the Friday incident on a plane at Queenstown Airport, bound for Auckland. The story was first reported by Stuff.
Air New Zealand chief safety officer Captain David Morgan said that the incident happened after a passenger failed to comply with the aircraft’s crew.
The flight “was delayed by approximately 40 minutes due to an incident where a passenger failed to comply with our crew member instructions and responded by being abusive towards our cabin crew and a fellow passenger,” he told 1News.
“Airport police were called to the aircraft. The incident resulted in the flight’s departure being delayed.
“Air New Zealand expects our crew to be treated with respect at all times, and we are providing support to the cabin crew member who experienced the abuse.”
Morgan did not name the passenger in his statement, citing privacy reasons.
In a statement to 1News, Maggie Barry said she had a “minor misunderstanding” onboard.
“The confusion was around my mobile phone, which I was wearing on a long strap around my neck and which was mistaken for a small bag that should be stored for the flight.
“As I’d often carried my phone that way hands-free on other flights, I wasn’t sure at first what they were asking me to do, so there was a misunderstanding initially.”
She said the issue was “quickly resolved” and had “almost no interaction” with other passengers onboard the plane, rejecting any accusations of abusive behaviour.
Barry added the plane’s arrival in Auckland was also delayed by weather-related issues.
A police spokesperson said an officer attended to the flight at about 12.30pm on Friday whilst the crew “dealt with a passenger who had not followed crew instructions.
“The pilot spoke with the officer and passenger together, and no further action was required,” police said.
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said “incidents of this nature are required to be reported” to authorities.
“A formal incident report had not yet been received by the airline, though this would be expected within the coming days. Under Civil Aviation Rule Part 12, incidents of this nature are required to be reported within 14 days,” a spokesperson told 1News.
“Once a report has been received, the Civil Aviation Authority will work with the airline to understand what happened and whether any follow-up action needs to be taken from a safety perspective.”
The former MP stood down from Parliament at the 2020 election. She was a Cabinet minister for several years during John Key’s National government.
Prior to her political career, she was a broadcaster for decades, most notably having hosted the TVNZ-produced Maggie’s Garden Show from 1991 to 2003.
Barry’s response in full
In her statement to 1News, Barry said the pilot and a police officer questioned whether she would obey crew instructions, which she said she would. She confirmed “there was a minor misunderstanding that was quickly resolved between myself and cabin crew”.
“I can confirm there was a minor misunderstanding that was quickly resolved between myself and cabin crew on a Friday flight from Queenstown to Auckland.
“The confusion was around my mobile phone which I was wearing on a long strap around my neck and which was mistaken for a small bag that should be stored for the flight.
“As I’d often carried my phone that way hands free on other flights, I wasn’t sure at first what they were asking me to do, so there was a misunderstanding initially.
“Once I understood the cause of the confusion, I took the phone off and showed them and they asked me to store it in the pocket in front of me for takeoff so I then switched it to flight mode and did as instructed.
“The flight had been delayed by about 20 mins leaving Queenstown regrettably, but a large contributing factor to the later landing in Auckland were the strong headwinds and high altitude turbulence and the pilot announced we should all stay in our seats with seatbelts on for most of the flight.
“Several airports around the North island had had flights cancelled or delayed because of the weather conditions which also contributed to our later than scheduled landing time in Auckland.
“I had almost no interaction, a few words at most, with other passengers although I had a brief chat with a young musician who said how much he’d enjoyed Queenstown which I agreed with, and that he was worried about his flight connection.
“I commented to him that the cabin crew were doing an excellent job reassuring passengers and providing information about how to manage the additional weather related delays and he agreed.
“I saw no “abuse” on the flight and certainly there was none from myself to any cabin crew or passengers.
“The pilot and police woman were very calm and professional in our brief chat in the cockpit and asked me if I was prepared to obey crew instructions.
“I responded ‘absolutely’ and reassured them that I always have and always will follow crew instructions as I had already on that flight.
“The misunderstanding was quickly resolved in a professional and measured way by the pilot, crew members and policewoman and there were no further developments on the flight apart from those that were weather related.
“I have subsequently been in contact with Air New Zealand and told them I would support any further investigation and cooperate fully.
“I understand this is the approach the airline always takes in relation to these sorts of issues and I commend them on taking any incidents in an aeroplane seriously and supporting their staff. I am happy to speak with them to resolve any issues.
“As a very frequent flyer over many years I have always had enormous respect for the important work our pilots and flight crews do and to follow the wise old safety message to ‘Always follow the instructions of your crew – they know what to do’.”