Forget inspirational features on far-flung destinations. When it comes to travel content, Kiwis are far more interested in disastrous flights, holiday mishaps, overhyped New Zealand attractions, and badly behaved tourists.
At least that’s what our list of Stuff’s top-read travel stories for 2019 suggests. From articles on vomiting plane passengers, and an air hostess who climbed into an overhead bin, to the Kiwi family labelled “the dirtiest guests of all time”, these are the travel yarns that got you clicking – and commenting – this year.
1. Nightmare Air New Zealand flight to Invercargill leaves ’20 per cent’ of passengers vomiting
This tale of an Air New Zealand flight into Invercargill Airport so rough it had an estimated fifth of passengers spewing was the most-read travel story of 2019. Invercargill man Owen Scott described the January flight as the worst he had ever experienced, and said most of his fellow passengers concurred. Air New Zealand quickly agreed to fork out for a refund.
2. Five New Zealand ‘attractions’ that don’t live up to the hype
This controversial July opinion piece on the not-so-hot spots “you can move down or cross off the bucket list without too much regret” got more than a few readers fired up, with some jumping to the defence of the Huka Prawn Park, the Hole in the Rock, the Moeraki Boulders, Shantytown Heritage Park and Hot Water Beach. Criticising popular New Zealand attractions is a dangerous game. Travel is highly subjective, of course: As TripAdvisor reviews of the Grand Canyon show, one person’s Natural Wonder of the World is another’s “overblown sandy ditch”.
* Flight attendants reveal 10 things they notice on a plane that you probably miss
* New cruises for start of the decade
* Foreign tourists find their way to our out-of-the-way spots. Why don’t Kiwis?
3. Two people removed from Air New Zealand flight after failing to listen to safety briefing
The “wealthy looking” couple at the centre of this badly-behaved passenger yarn also had the nation outraged. An Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Wellington had to return to the gate after the pair refused to view the safety card, delaying its departure.
Another passenger aboard said the Louis Vuitton bag-toting woman stuck her fingers in her ears when asked to watch what was happening because she was seated in an exit row. The passenger described the couple’s behaviour as shockingly arrogant, saying “They didn’t seem to care. The passengers behind them were saying ‘For God’s sake, it takes two minutes to look at it, just look at it’ … they seemed like they were too important for it.” The pair were eventually kicked off.
4. US airline flight attendant found inside overhead compartment
Passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight from Nashville to Philadelphia were perplexed when an air hostess got into an overhead bin during boarding. One passenger said the attendant was in the compartment for at least 10 minutes. Responding to the incident, Southwest told Fox News said the attendant had wanted “to have a brief moment of fun with customers during boarding”.
5. Air New Zealand flight to Palmerston North makes emergency landing at Auckland Airport
In more bad flight news, a full emergency was declared at Auckland Airport earlier this month after a smoke warning light on an Air New Zealand flight bound for Palmerston North came on. The flight landed safely and, according to one passenger, Donna MacKenzie, the incident “wasn’t really a big deal”.
She said the captain told passengers that a “light with a false alarm” had lit up in the cockpit, and they returned to the airport to find themselves surrounded by fire engines. “We didn’t even get to go down the slides,” she lamented.
6. Kiwi family sent bill for clean up of Cook Islands holiday home
The stuff of holiday nightmares, this story centred around a New Zealand family receiving a $780 bill from a Rarotonga holiday villa owner as an “award for [being] the Dirtiest Guests of All Times”.
The owner of Kaireva Beach House accused the family of leaving behind rubbish, a “pestilential kitchen sink”, dirty dishes, a stained sofa and sheets, and marks on the floor. Kiwi mum Bridie Henderson said she was “shocked” to receive the bill as they “had never been told that the tariff did not include cleaning…” and complained to Cook Island Tourism. The villa owners eventually agreed to withdraw the bill.
7. ‘Get a job’: German couple mocked following appeal for money for trip
A lesson in how to fail to make friends and influence people. German couple Catalin Onc and Elena Engelhardt were widely mocked after setting up a GoFundMe page to help raise €10,000 (NZ$17,200) for a trip through Africa.
When it was revealed that Onc’s mother works two jobs to help pay for their lifestyle and that the couple did not intend to find work themselves, commenters were scathing rather than supportive. “You two need to grow up, get a job, support yourselves,” said one. The pair, who had more than 37,000 followers on their Another Beautiful Day page, said they planned to take a break from social media.
In case you are wondering, they have reached €967 or NZ$1607 on their appeal page.
8. Irate passengers caught out by Air New Zealand check-in change
Air New Zealand turned away at least three passengers deemed late for a flight departing Timaru in July after the airline scrapped its straight-to-gate check-in process.
They were not amused, with one woman, who did not want to be named, saying a staff member was “unhelpful” when she arrived at the airport about 15 minutes before her flight. “It was really frustrating. She told me I had to be here 30 minutes before the flight departure and told me there were new rules which applied after July 1.”
9. Nine airlines you really don’t want to fly with right now
Budget airlines’ zero-tolerance policy toward those with overweight carry-on bags pales into insignificance when compared with some carriers around the world, UK-based travel writer David Whitley wrote. Damascus-based FlyDamas, which flies to “extremely dicey” destinations such as Iraq, Sudan and other parts of war-torn Syria, is among the airlines he recommends steering clear of, along with Spirit Airlines with its “tiniest seats in the sky”.
10. New Zealand’s most underrated attractions
Travel journalist Brook Sabin’s pick of off-the-beaten-track experiences in Aotearoa that “that never disappoint”. Waimangu Volcanic Valley near Rotorua is “one of the greatest treasures that most Kiwis have never visited”, he reckons, while the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth, is “one of the best free events in the country”.
The Poor Knights in Northland, Redwood Night Tree Walk in Rotorua, Stewart Island, mountain carting in Cardrona and Gisborne were among the other places to make the list. Gisborne, he says, is “undergoing quite the tourism transformation. It helps the East Coast also has some of the country’s best weather over summer”. It’s heartening to see that a bit of inspirational travel advice doesn’t always go amiss.