Air New Zealand tightens capacity as staffing levels fall prey to COVID, flu

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Air New Zealand announced on Thursday (11 August) that it is taking “proactive measures to protect the travel plans of its customers as sickness levels continue to cause disruption”. The airline said over the next six months it would cut capacity by 1.5 percent seats than originally planned. Air New Zealand’s domestic and international schedule will be operating at 90 percent of pre-COVID capacity for the next six months, the airline said.

The airline said “most customers who experience a flight change will be transferred to another flight on the same day for domestic travel, and for international travel, on the same day or a day either side of their original booking. Where customers cannot be accommodated within these timeframes, they may change their booking online, opt into credit or request a refund”. Those customers with changes will start to see them from today and will be automatically transferred to another flight. Those with further onward connections may also be disrupted and we will work through these directly with impacted customers.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says making these changes now gives customers advance notice and will help the airline provide a service that’s more reliable during its rebuild. “Like many airlines around the world, we’ve been ramping up our operation at a time when Covid and the flu continues to impact the aviation industry. Looking at the disruptions our customers and staff have faced over the past five weeks, we’ve made some adjustments to reduce short-notice cancellations in the months ahead,” he said. “While we did factor sickness into our ramp up plan, we’ve seen the highest rates of crew sickness in over a decade. We see these challenges continuing not just for crew, but for our whole operation, and so we’re making proactive changes to address them.”

Foran says reducing the number of flights means the airline will be able to have crew on standby to cover illness, which has not been possible lately. “We’re pulling out all the stops to minimise disruption and provide surety for our customers over the next six months. We have rehired or brought on more than 2,000 pilots, airport staff, cabin crew, contact centre and engineers, and we’re going as fast as we can with recruitment and training. We’re also exploring options to lease a crewed widebody aircraft for the busy summer period. We know customers want the Air New Zealand experience, and that’s what we want to deliver too. But at the moment we’re stretched to capacity and making sure our customers are able to travel is our top priority. The lease of an additional crewed aircraft may help us achieve that.”

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