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Air NZ denies political motive in diverting flight

Published: 9:36AM Friday November 25, 2011 Source: ONE News

On the eve of the election John Key is busy batting away criticism that he is "power crazy".

Key has been forced to answer questions about why an Air New Zealand flight was diverted to come and pick him up last night.

The National leader's flight was cancelled so another plane heading from Nelson to Auckland was diverted to New Plymouth to gather him and six other passengers.

Key said the diversion was not a case of special treatment.

"I think we got great treatment. My understanding is Air New Zealand have a policy, if you like, that if a plane can be diverted within about twenty minutes it can pick people up rather than leaving them stranded overnight, they do that," Key said.

Air New Zealand confirmed the flight was diverted to New Plymouth but that was to pick up seven passengers whose flight to Auckland had been cancelled because of mechanical problems.

The flight was the last of the evening and there was no opportunity to put passengers onto other services. Air NZ says passengers were told prior to take off that they would be diverting to New Plymouth.

The airline says the action is not outside normal procedure and has happened before in recent months.

However, some disgruntled passengers on the flight from thought they had been redirected to New Plymouth simply to pick up the party leader.

One passenger claimed that the flight attendant made a political statement over the aircraft's PA system.

"As the flight attendant was telling us about our planned landing in Auckland she said 'thank you for you patience and by the way John Key says to vote for him'," she said.

Key said that some people need to get a sense of humour.

"She was finishing her PA and I said to her 'party vote National, party vote National', and she said over the PA 'yea john wants you to vote for him'."

Mana's Waitakere candidate Sue Bradford said the incident shows Key has gone "power crazy".

"I think its totally despicable that our national airline should be used in this way. It's not there as John Key's personal toy," Bradford said.

Air NZ says the whole flight was 25 minutes late, including departing Nelson five minutes after its scheduled time.