Wing-Clipped Nelson Lawyer Banned for Bad Behaviour Fails in Air NZ Injunction Liftoff

Wing-Clipped Nelson Lawyer Banned for Bad Behaviour Fails in Air NZ Injunction Liftoff
Wing-Clipped Nelson Lawyer Banned for Bad Behaviour Fails in Air NZ Injunction Liftoff

A Nelson lawyer’s attempts to have a travel ban imposed by Air New Zealand lifted after a display of bad behaviour n the Koru Lounge has been dismissed in a High Court decision by Justice Davison in the High Court, Auckland.

The lawyer, Anjela Sharma had sought an interim injunction to overturn the one-year ban involving a trip she was making with her family in December 2018 from Nelson, via Auckland to India.

The incident arose when a Koru member requested proof of Koru Lounge membership, resulting in Sharma claiming that her business class ticket to India combined with her own Koru membership entitled the family to be in the Lounge.

Anjela Sharma sought an interim injunction from the High Court at Auckland to overturn a one-year ban imposed by Air New Zealand. 

Sharma said she and her family were travelling to India from Nelson in December 2018, when an Air New Zealand staff member asked for proof they were allowed to be in the Koru Lounge.

Sharma said, on her understanding, their business class tickets entitled the family to use the Koru Club Lounge at Nelson Airport, particularly as both she and her husband were Koru Lounge members.

Although Sharma and her husband were Koru members, none of their children were. The Koru Club policy allows for members to bring a maximum one guest. 

Sharma said they were permitted to enter and remain in the Koru Lounge during a two-hour wait until their departure, after they showed a hostess their travel documentation to India. 

However, while in the lounge, Sharma said her family was challenged on their eligibility. 

Justice Davison said:

The report described the applicant and members of her family as being very loud, disruptive, and intimidating during their dealings with the Lounge hostess over their entitlement to use the Lounge. The report said that members of the applicant’s family called the Lounge hostess stupid and racist, and mocked and loudly mimicked her voice when she greeted other passengers entering the Lounge. The report further noted that at one point a member of the airport security staff was called to the Lounge and had offered to call the Police.

Justice Davison

Air New Zealand staff who dealt with Sharma and her family said she’d acted in an “intimidatory and bullying manner”. 

“I feel Mrs Sharma uses bullying tactics to gain her own way every time she travels, we are always courteous and helpful to her, but she pushes the boundaries of decency every time she travels, and I would like to put a stop to her countless demands with us,” the report said. 

The staff member said in the report Sharma and her family were not welcome in the Nelson Koru Lounge in the future and sought action to prevent this behaviour occurring in future.  

Sharma claimed Air New Zealand wrote to her and alleged she and her family had been refused entry, entered the lounge without permission, and the family was loud and aggressive.

She said the airline issued a warning that she’d be banned if she didn’t follow the rules.

In March 2019, Sharma sent an email to former Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxton disputing there was any justification for the warning letter. 

Sharma continued to send communication and tried to check-in on a flight and accused a Nelson staff member of lying and being “on a venomous mission” against her, according to the decision.

An email was sent to Sharma on behalf of Luxton stating her correspondence had been “distasteful and insulting”.

Air New Zealand imposed a one year ban on July 2, 2019 which resulted in Sharma filing the High Court proceeding that claimed Air New Zealand was in breach of its contractual obligations to her as a passenger who had booked and paid for several flights she had not yet flown. 

Sharma said she was dependent on travelling with Air New Zealand for both work-related travel and to maintain contact with family and for holidays, but Justice Davison said Air New Zealand had been ‘careful and measured’ in its response to the Sharma issue.

“It was only after she continued, despite the warning letter, to engage in what the respondent considered was unacceptable treatment of its staff, as well as indicating in her correspondence that she did not intend to desist, that the respondent finally made the decision to impose the ban.”

Justice Davison

Justice Davison noted that Sharma could use Sounds Air to travel to Wellington to use the JetStar service for her travel.

Weighing the competing interests, I find that the balance of convenience in this case strongly favours the respondent, and not making an order which would remove the ban it has imposed on the applicant pending determination of the applicant’s claim. Furthermore, should the applicant succeed in establishing her claim, any loss caused by a breach of contract can be adequately compensated by way of damages.

Justice Davison

Air New Zealand was entitled to costs on the application.

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