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Airline, Passenger Dispute Details of Miscarriage During International Layover

“As a foreigner, you don’t know what access there is to healthcare.”


Kiwi couple have shared the details of a harrowing experience during an international stopover on their return flight from New Zealand in the spring of 2023. 

Joe and Eli Brockliss told the New Zealand Herald they were transiting the Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti on March 11 following a trip to visit Joe’s family in Rotorua, New Zealand, for their wedding. During the trip, they had also shared the news that Eli was three months pregnant. 

Their scheduled stopover in Tahiti was six hours between the arrival of their flight from Auckland and their scheduled late evening departure for Los Angeles, both operated by Air Tahiti Nui. Upon arrival, the connecting flight to Los Angeles was delayed two hours, before finally being cancelled in the middle of the night. 

Because of the late hour, the majority of the displaced passengers could not be accommodated in local hotels, and many spend the night in the departure lounge at the airport. 

Around 3 a.m., Eli noted some bleeding and feared a miscarriage. The couple said they alerted staff onsite, and say they were offered no assistance, and that a doctor would not be available onsite until 8 a.m. Eli had the miscarriage around 4 a.m. 

The couple were ultimately rebooked onto an Air France departure for Los Angeles, having to leave the secure area and re-check at the ticket counter at 7 a.m., so they were unable to see a doctor before departing on their next flight. 

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In May, the couple wrote Air Tahiti Nui and requested a refund. They told the New Zealand Herald they waited four weeks for a full response. When the airline responded, they denied the couple’s request for a refund because they were accommodated on another flight to Los Angeles. 

Regarding their concerns about how their medical emergency was handled, the airline told them it had no record they had informed staff of their situation, because they did not have an incident report filed—either with the airline, it’s handling agent, or the airport operator. 

The couple told the Herald that their willingness to travel in the future has been inhibited by the incident, saying they wouldn’t look at traveling to New Zealand with a stopover again. “As a foreigner, you don’t know what access there is to healthcare,” Eli related. 

The Herald did inquire as to why the couple has only now come forward with their story, even though they traveled in March of 2023. Their response was that they were delayed because of their correspondence with Air Tahiti Nui, although the airline responded with details of their internal investigation in May 2023. 

Air Tahiti Nui responded to the couple’s claims in an interview with Polynésie 1, the primary television and radio station in Tahiti. 

Air Tahiti Nui CEO Michel Monvoisin confirmed that no refund had been issued because transportation had been provided to the passengers’ final destination. He also repeated the airline’s assertion that they found no record of the Brocklisses’ medical situation—only an unrelated report from another passenger the same day who reported feeling unwell. The implication there is that the airline does habitually keep internal records when passengers report a medical need. 

“What concerns me is that if a passenger has a pathology problem, and depending on its severity, the captain can refuse boarding. We therefore wonder about the intentions of the couple, [as] we have no report before they boarded—but they complained afterwards, once in the United States.”

Because the couple completed their journey on Air France, Air Tahiti Nui has no visibility to determine whether the same concerns were shared with Air France prior to boarding. Monvoisin also told Polynésie 1 that they had no further correspondence from the couple following their last letter denying their refund request in May 2023. 

Monvoisin noted that the airline’s protocols for handling medical cases are well-set, as they’re not particularly uncommon: once a passenger notifies Air Tahiti Nui staff (usually a ground handling agent) that they feel unwell, staff will contact airport firefighters who transport them to a local health center if needed, regardless of the hour. 

At Faa’a International Airport, passengers connecting directly between two international flights do not undergo local immigration formalities. This makes leaving the secure area difficult for transit who do not intend a longer stopover in Tahiti, but there are exceptions for emergency situations such as those requiring medical care. 

Air Tahiti Nui has referred the case to their legal team in New Zealand, which is reviewing the possibility of a defamation complaint. Under New Zealand Law, corporations can seek damages for defamation if they can prove the statements were both false and caused them monetary loss. 

Air Tahiti Nui is the flag carrier of French Polynesia, a semi-autonomous region of France in the South Pacific. The airline, which is overseen by France’s civil aviation authority, serves Tahiti with nonstop flights to Auckland, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Seattle, plus one-stop service from both US destinations onward to Paris.

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jacketwatch March 27, 2024

Also let me add two words. Travel insurance. 

Loralin March 27, 2024

(cont.) I should note that, once on the flight, the service was exceptional. I would fly them again with the knowledge that, if something goes wrong, you're on your own and you will need to accept your losses. Also, get travel insurance for this one. 

Loralin March 27, 2024

This is feeling like par for the course for this airline. I 100% believe this couple's story as I experienced a serious lack of communication and willingness to assist when I flew on them last month. The scenario was similar in that the flight from LAX to PPT kept being delayed one hour at a time with no information provided until they cancelled the flight at about 1:00 am in the morning (too late for many people to book hotel rooms for the night). The airline then told us that the same flight would go the next day at 4:00 pm, but even so, we needed to collect our bags and then recheck them the next day. While waiting forever in baggage claim, other passengers noted that they were told the flight would leave at 11:00 am the following day. Everyone was confused about what time to show up at the airport, so i found the gate agent who indicated that she had no idea what time the flight would go, nor did she seem to care. Reservations was closed &everyone showed back up at 8:00 am at LAX and waited until Air Tahiti Nui agents showed up a couple of hours later. The flight ended up leaving at 2:30 pm. I have no more room to write, but additional difficulties and lack of willingness to help followed. Fyi, the Tahiti airport is small/not very comfortable. After my personal experience, I'm guessing the couple did whatever was needed to just get on a flight and get home.   

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jacketwatch March 27, 2024

What I don't understand is that even if the personnel on the ground did not respond to this then why didn't the man himself call for emergency help?  And also knowing that she just miscarried, why did they get on the plane anyway? If it was me and my wife was having a medical emergency in the airport, I'd be sure to get somebody's attention one way or another.  You would have to maybe raise your voice or somehow stress the urgency of this, but just to take no for an answer. Sounds pretty strange to me. This man as well educated too. I just don't understand it.