I listen to Red Radio at times… not by choice, but because my husband likes it. The other day, I asked him how fluent he was in Maori these days. He said not at all. I said that he must be if he listens to this stuff day after day, because the amount of Maori spoken on that channel would mean that you would struggle to get by without it.

Well, it seems that the same applies to Air New Zealand these days, but here, there is a different problem. Air New Zealand deals with huge numbers of tourists. Are they expected to speak Maori too?

Air New Zealand is being celebrated for speaking Te Reo Maori to a woman who appeared to take offence at use of the language.

Her responses are being labelled “racist” online. 

On a public Facebook post, the Aotearoa-based woman asked a question about Air NZ’s premium lounges, before the company replied in English but started the comment with “kia ora”.

Replying, the woman said: “Hello… I’m not Maori”.

She was Aotearoa based, was she? Not New Zealand based?

Air NZ clapped back with further information for her, including another phrase in Te Reo.

“I’m still not Maori. What’s the English translation of that?” she replied.

Just so that you know, their second response included… “taihoa koe ka kite all the amazing improvements we have made”.

I don’t know what that means either.

She has been slammed on Facebook for being racist… for not understanding a phrase that many of us will not know.

Wow.

The next comment came from a helpful Facebook user with a link to the online Maori dictionary, which offers free translation between the official language of New Zealand and English. 

Air NZ then used Te Reo yet again in its third response to the woman, while supplying more information about the upgrades to its premium lounges.

Other social media users took screenshots of the conversation and made new posts with them, heaping praise on the national carrier for its responses.

“Air New Zealand you win!” one of the Facebook posts is captioned.

“Air New Zealand you are the BOMB airline!” said another before using the Maori version of the woman’s first name.

NEWSHUB.

The Maori version of the woman’s first name? I don’t know the identity of this person, but Annabel or Florence or Lucinda has a Maori version? Just like Christmas does – Kirhimete. Yes. Very Maori.

They never celebrated Christmas, of course.

Don’t get me wrong. I have friends who have chosen to learn Maori, and that is absolutely their choice. But suddenly, if you don’t know Maori, or choose not to speak Maori, you are racist? Why is that?

I have chosen not to learn Portuguese. Does that make me racist against people from Portugal?

But there is a bigger problem for Air New Zealand over this issue. Yes, it can probably be described as the 767 in the room. They deal with tourists. Lots and lots of tourists.

How would ‘taihoa koe ka kite’ go down with the average Chinese or American tourist? Or is it only people from ‘Aotearoa’ that can be considered racist?

Best airline of the year? Or the most racist airline of the year? After all, this is racism too. Racism against non-Maori New Zealanders, but then again, don’t get excited. That will go absolutely nowhere.

I am sorry, Air New Zealand, but you have got this badly wrong. No one in this free country of ours is forced to speak Maori, and no one, in this free country of ours, is forced not to.

I guess that is what freedom is all about.

Obrigado, Ar Nova Zelandia. Whoops! Is that racist?