British grandmother travelling to meet grandchild ‘devastated’ after being denied boarding to New Zealand

Ms Crumpton was bound for Auckland, New Zealand (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Ms Crumpton was bound for Auckland, New Zealand (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A British grandmother was “devastated” to fly halfway to New Zealand to meet her newborn grandchild — only to be told she had been denied entry to the country.

Lois Crumpton, aged 80, was travelling to visit her son Tom and meet his youngest child, William, for the first time, when she was told she could not fly into New Zealand due to immigration concerns.

She had already flown the first leg of her journey — from London to San Francisco — before she was told of the visa issue.

The incident happened on 17 January, after the elderly passenger had already endured some 15 hours of travel, with Ms Crumpton saying it had caused her “significant emotional distress”.

“I am 80 years old and travelling such a long way is a huge undertaking for me, and to have the experience of being refused to board a plane, when in good faith I had applied and received permission to travel to NZ, has caused significant emotional distress,” she wrote to Immigration New Zealand officials.

Ms Crumpton says she had successfully applied for the required NZeTA visa waiver document prior to the trip, and been approved on 3 January, with no prior indication that there would be any problem with getting into the country.

Her son, Tom Crumpton, told Stuff New Zealand: “She went to board her flight to Auckland and was stopped at the gate and told she’s an overstayer and not authorised to return to New Zealand.”

He explained that he suspects the issue is with a past visit in 2020, when his mother became stranded while visiting the family as New Zealand closed its borders due to the spread of Covid-19.

However, Mr Crumpton says the family followed government protocol at the time, with his mother applying for a six-month interim visa. However, her visitor visa expired while she was still waiting for her interim visa to come through.

“She ended up stuck here for about 18 months and, while she was here, she did all of her visa extensions and things she was required to do,” Mr Crumpton told Stuff.

“Immigration staff reassured me that as long as mum was going through the process, she was not going to get deported and would be okay to stay.”

She eventually flew back home before the second emergency visa was granted. Ms Crumpton says she had been advised locally not to travel home until she had received her Covid-19 vaccine.

“But they’d always assured us that this was okay,” says Mr Crumpton.

New Zealand implemented the new NZeTA visa waiver in October 2019, with dozens of countries including most of Europe, the US and Chile required to pay for one before travel.

Similar to the US’ Esta visa waiver system, these can be paid for online and should be processed within 72 hours of application.

An Immigration New Zealand representative, Nicola Hogg, apologised for “the difficult situation” Ms Crumpton had found herself in.

However, she advised that being granted an NZeTA visa waiver did not automatically guarantee travellers entry to New Zealand.

Mr Crumpton confirm that Immigration New Zealand has since granted his mother a second NZeTA visa waiver, but he is “angry and frustrated” that the family has wasted nearly £2,000 in travel costs on the initial trip.

“We did everything we were supposed to do, and our only option was basically to wait for Immigration to tell us whether she was allowed to come back to the country. Plus there’s this £2,000 air ticket. No one’s saying they’ll refund any of those. That’s the cost that we have to bear,” he said.

An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson told The Independent: “We acknowledge the difficult situation Lois Crumpton is in and apologise for the stress this has caused.

“Ms Crumpton was approved a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) on 3 January 2023 and attempted to travel to New Zealand on 17 January 2023. It is important to note that holding a valid NZeTA does not guarantee that the holder will be able to travel to or enter New Zealand, and this is clearly outlined on our website.

“Ms Crumpton had previously overstayed in New Zealand in 2021 for 42 days and a border alert had been placed on her immigration records. Due to the border alert on Ms Crumpton, she was spoken to by an Immigration Border Officer when she attempted to board her flight at San Francisco airport and was subsequently offloaded from the flight and advised that she must apply for and be approved a visa before she can travel.

“However, we recognise that in this particular situation, we should have applied discretion and allowed her to board the plane, and we apologise for the distress this has caused. We have now reinstated Ms Crumpton’s visa waiver status and communicated this to her. This means that she is now able to travel to New Zealand on her current NZeTA and valid British passport.”