Air new zealand: two years of flight disruptions ahead due to engine problem.
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Numerous Air New Zealand flights will be rescheduled and the airline will temporarily stop flying direct to Seoul and Hobart from next year as it deals with an engine problem in 16 of its aircraft.
Customers are being moved to different flights as the airline deals with the fallout of a problem with the new Pratt & Whitney engines, which affects some 700 planes across the globe.
In its fleet of 106 aircraft, Air New Zealand has 16 A320/321NEO planes which are affected by the engine maintenance issue. They fly to Australia, the Pacific Islands and domestic New Zealand.
The engines must be removed and inspected for tiny cracks that could point to fatigue, although it has been stressed there is no safety issue.
Air New Zealand had warned it expected significant disruption to its scheduling from January 2024 and now says disruption could last for two years.
Up to four Air New Zealand planes could be grounded at any one time to service the affected engines.
In a statement, Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said most of the airline’s schedule had been reorganised by consolidating some flying and moving aircraft to different routes.
“Most customers whose flights have been changed will still fly on the same day, some on international flights will be re-accommodated to services a day either side of their original booking and some may have a cabin change due to a different aircraft being used.”
The airline had also made the “difficult decision” to pause its Auckland-Hobart route from April 5, 2024, and the Auckland-Seoul route from April 1.
Customers would still be able to book to Hobart and Seoul with Air New Zealand, but the flights wouldn’t be direct and would be partly operated by partner airlines.
Foran said the airline was also looking closely at leasing extra planes.
“We appreciate these changes will disappoint some of our customers, for which we apologise. It’s not the news we hoped for given our announcement earlier this year that we had purchased new aircraft to add capacity and assist in meeting ongoing strong demand.”
Air New Zealand would almost double the number of people working in its external contact centre to help with the expected influx of calls.
Customers who are affected will be contacted directly in coming weeks - they do not need to contact Air New Zealand, the statement said.
Foran told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning the engines were having to be removed from planes and inspected four times faster than initially expected.
Pratt & Whitney’s chief executive had called Foran about five weeks ago to let him know of the change. At this stage it was expected the disruption would be for two years because the workshops did not have the capacity to check the engines fast enough.
“It’s really unfortunate … we’ve got four planes sitting on the tarmac at the moment that can’t fly and that puts quite a bit of pressure on,” Foran said.
It was hoped the problem would be sorted in less than two years but “at this stage it’s better to be transparent and organise ourselves around that”.
Hobart flights had been paused due to the Pratt & Whitney issue, while the Seoul flights were affected by an ongoing issue with the Rolls-Royce engine. Pausing the Seoul route freed up plane capacity to avoid short-term cancellations of other flights.
The domestic route most affected would be Wellington-Christchurch, he said.
Some jets that were flying domestically were going across the Tasman to make up for the shortfall, and the Turboprops were having to work a bit harder. The most important thing was getting people from A to B and doing it on time, he said.
Put to him that the situation was “semi-chaotic”, Foran said that would be a “reasonable term”.
Every component of the airline industry was “rattling”, he said.
Air New Zealand had already said several weeks ago it would not deliver the same profits as last year.
”We’re wearing extra costs, we can’t put all those costs onto our passengers - they’re already paying high fares. And not only that but you’re seeing a bit more competition on some routes so I think prices in some areas will come down.”
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