Air New Zealand is struggling under a triple whammy load of wild weather, staff illness and high demand at the start of school holidays.
Its travel alert site is advising of “three plus hour” wait times for those trying to call the contact centre.
The company warned customers on Friday to expect flight delays, with more than 672,000 customers booked to travel domestically and overseas.
Traveller Phillip Cormack says he is “absolutely frustrated” after waiting hours and “still not getting to talk to a service person”.
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“I have spent just thousands of dollars on international travel with Air NZ this week and need to make a small but important alteration that can’t be done on the net page.
“So on top of the money, I have now invested over seven hours of my time and it looks like I’m not finished yet . . . so frustrated.
“I can only imagine how much anxiety this could be causing some travelers who require urgent help or answers.”
A post on the company’s Facebook page from Friday thanks customers for their “ongoing patience during our busiest July school holiday period in two years”.
“As winter weather and sickness hits the network at a peak time we’re doing everything we can to get you to where you need to go.”
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran had predicted that higher-than-usual employee sickness combined with tumultuous weather was “likely to cause some disruptions across the network over the coming days”.
Many commenters on the company’s Facebook page were complaining about wait times of many hours – in some cases longer than eight hours – trying to book new flights.
One person said even the chat bot, Oscar, had stopped replying.
Others were grateful to staff doing all they could in trying circumstances.
One said: “One staff member was just about in tears from the amount of people complaining about their flights getting cancelled due to the bad weather EVERYWHERE today.
“They are honestly doing their best: not a job I would want!”
The weather up and down the country is expected to remain unsettled for several days, with strong wind warnings and thunderstorms predicted in some areas.
MetService has lifted the heavy rain watch for Gisborne but said there remains a risk of squally thunderstorms for Buller, the far west of Nelson, Horowhenua, Kapiti Coast, Taranaki and also coastal Waitomo and Waikato.
The storms may be accompanied by strong wind gusts, 90 to 100 kmh, heavy rain and hail.