'I'm not Māori': Air New Zealand teases customer with te reo answers

Customer asks for English translation about one of the national carrier’s airport lounges

Air New Zealand has engaged in a provocative Facebook exchange with a customer who was disgruntled with the company’s use of te reo Māori.

Māori is one of New Zealand’s three official languages and currently experiencing a revival in popularity and usage, with long waiting lists for te reo classes around the country.

The British high commissioner, Laura Clarke, said foreign diplomats now “lack credibility” in New Zealand if they fail to learn te reo on their posting, as the country increasingly moves towards bilingualism.

Reflecting this sea change Air New Zealand gently tussled with a disgruntled customer this week, after they expressed exasperation that the company was responding to their Facebook queries by using Māori words.

The exchange began when the customer asked Air New Zealand when the refurbishment of the airline’s lounge in Wellington would be complete.

Screen shot of text exchanges, some in te reo Māori, between Air New Zealand and one of the airline’s customer.
Screen shot of text exchanges, some in te reo Māori, between Air New Zealand and one of the airline’s customer. Photograph: Facebook

“Kia ora” the airline responded, using the Māori phrase for hello, before saying the lounge was a work in progress and more information would be available soon.

Disgruntled, the customer responded: “Hello FC (I’m not Maori) , any likelihood it will be open by mid-December?”

Kia ora is a common greeting in New Zealand and used frequently by all ethnicities, as well as by government offices and businesses.

When boarding Air New Zealand flights, passengers are always greeted with “Kia ora” by flight staff, and the pilots.

The airline responded with more te reo, after informing the customer the lounge was unlikely to be open before the end of the year.

“However, taihoa koe ka kite all the amazing improvement we have made,” which translates to “you will see”.

The customer responded again: “Air New Zealand I’m still not Māori. What’s the English translation of that?”

To this Air NZ responded: “We’ve done a bit of digging for you, and it looks like the lounge will be open just before Kirihimete!”

Kirihimete is te reo for Christmas.

At that point fellow Kiwis chimed in, offering links to Māori–English dictionaries, and applauding the airline for standing up for the country’s Indigenous language.

“Epic trolling”, wrote one commentator.


Eleanor Ainge Roy

The GuardianTramp

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