Air New Zealand stewards ordered an able-bodied reggae muso from Queenstown into a wheelchair three times as he flew to Wellington – because he was barefoot.
In the bizarre incident, singer-guitarist Peti Seiuli, 25, was travelling to a gig in the capital via Christchurch last Saturday with his band Ghettoblaster when he was hauled up for not wearing shoes or socks.
As a result, when the plane landed in Christchurch, the man-mountain vocalist was wheeled to the terminal in a disability chair by waiting ground staff.
A connecting flight to Wellington was then delayed for 20 minutes while Seiuli frantically tried to buy a new pair of shoes in the airport retail area.
“I wear a size 12 and couldn’t find anything big enough to fit,” Seiuli says.
“As a compromise, I was then wheelchaired back across the tarmac for the Wellington flight and it was the same when I landed at the other end.
“I hate having anything on my feet but I had no idea I would cause so much hassle and nobody said anything to me when I checked in at Queenstown.”
Seiuli says he was approached several times by attendants on the lunchtime flight from the resort and warned he wasn’t allowed to travel barefoot as it was a safety issue.
“I started to feel the heat at Christchurch because other passengers were raging that the plane to Wellington was held up because I had no shoes.
“Alex ‘Grizz’ Wyllie, the old All Blacks coach, was on the flight and he looked furious with me. One of my band mates asked him for an autograph to try to break the ice but Grizz was having none of it and just stared him down.”
To make matters worse, when Seiuli arrived in Wellington he discovered his shoes had been in his carry-on hand luggage all along.
“I didn’t even check because I thought I’d put them in my guitar bag, which also doubles as a bit of a suitcase for me and that was in the hold of the plane …”
Air NZ’s Queenstown boss Dave Whitaker confirms the airline was aware of the incident.
“The gentleman was spoken to as he got on the flight from Queenstown,” Whitaker says.
“For safety reasons, it is against our regulations for passengers to travel barefoot across the tarmac or on the plane.”
Ghettoblaster play at Revolver on Saturday night. Footwear optional.