Air New Zealand’s social team has been praised after responding to a “racist” customer by using Maori language.
In a Facebook post which has since been removed, Air New Zealand wrote the following reply to someone inquiring about when the Koru Club lounge would be reopening at Wellington Airport: “Kia ora, our team are working hard to finish our amazing lounge for customers. We hope to have more information regarding this shortly.”
“Kia ora” is the equivalent of “hello” in Te Reo, or Maori, one of New Zealand’s two official languages.
The customer responded “I’m not Maori”, before asking, “Any likelihood it will be open by mid-December?”
Rather than holding back, Air New Zealand responded completely courteously – but with even more Maori language.
“We do not expect this lounge to be re-opened within 2019. However, taihoa koe ka kite all the amazing improvements we have made,” they wrote.
“Taihoa koe ka” translates as “you’ll soon see”.
The customer wasn’t amused, writing: “I’m still not Maori. What’s the English translation of that?”
Another commenter helpfully posted a link to a Maori dictionary below.
Air New Zealand didn’t provide a translation but left one more comment for the disgruntled social media user: “We’ve done a bit of digging for you, and it looks like the lounge will be open just before Kirihimete! We can’t wait to open the doors again, then you’ll get to see all the amazing improvements we’ve made.”
The language barrier shouldn’t have been an issue this time – the word “Kirihimete”, which means “Christmas”, was accompanied by a Christmas tree emoji.
Although the post was taken down, it has since been shared widely on social media.
“Nice one, Air NZ,” wrote one commenter of the post; another said: “At the end of the day, you don’t entertain racists, you subtly shut them down or deflect. I think Air NZ was completely within reason.”
A Reddit user uploaded a screenshot of the exchange, along with the caption: “I thought this from Air NZ was funny and maybe the person who they were replying to was just a ‘bit’ ignorant.
“However after looking through more of their Facebook profile, it just made me sad that someone can be so racist.”
The post highlighted the racial tensions that still exist in New Zealand.
“I know a reasonable number of Kiwis over 50 who have been resistant to changes in the pronunciation of place names (Whanganui etc) and who likewise see the slow introduction of Maori words into everyday English as something forced upon them, to which they never agreed,” wrote one reddit user.
“I don’t know if this necessarily makes them ‘racist’ although it does mean they are showing resistance to learning one of NZ’s official languages.”
The Independent has asked Air New Zealand for comment.