~ A cautionary tale…
Standing at the Air NZ check-in desk at LAX, booking a flight to Sydney, wasn’t in my plans for today, but, oh well!
We travel, that’s our thing. We don’t necessarily book everything we plan to do way in advance, but I’m usually pretty good about finding out what we need to do. Our plans for the next few months are: one month in the Cook Islands (booked), three months in New Zealand (booked), followed by about a year in Australia (not yet booked).
Before we booked our flights to the Cook Islands and New Zealand, I had checked how long we were allowed to stay in each place, did we need to pre-arrange visas, and did we need onbound travel in order to enter each country. Cook Islands is “self-governing, in free association with New Zealand”, and as British citizens we were allowed to stay for a month, with no visa. New Zealand would allow us up to six months, no visa, and Australia, up to 12 months, apply for a visa online.
We booked our flights to the Cook Islands and on to New Zealand, but weren’t quite ready to book our onward flight to Australia, so I phoned the visa section of the New Zealand Embassy, got a live person, and explained our plans, and asked if we would be allowed to enter New Zealand without having a ticket to leave. “Oh yes,” replied the friendly Kiwi, “shouldn’t be a problem at all!”
This morning I couldn’t complete the online check-in: “no onward flight”. I had booked the two segments separately, as that was actually cheaper. No problem, I thought, when we get to LAX, I’ll show them the record locator for our flight on to Auckland, and we’ll be good. Not.
Nice lady at Air NZ check-in explained that she was responsible for checking that we had a flight booked out of New Zealand, and she could be fined if she issued boarding passes, even to the Cook Islands, without that. Her supervisor phoned the NZ immigration service, yup, you need to show you’re leaving before they’ll let you in. She even phoned Rarotonga, to see if they would let us in, but by this time I thought I’d better just book a flight to Sydney. We pretty much knew when we planned to go to Australia, we just hadn’t booked it, since the NZ Embassy had told me it was ok!
While I was booking our flight, apparently Rarotonga had told the supervisor to just go ahead and issue the boarding passes (as long as we promised to leave!) But by then I had booked the flights.
Moral of the story: don’t necessarily believe everything “an official” tells you!
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