Air NZ warns Christmas holiday flights 'at risk' due to union strike

Tens of thousands of travellers could see their holiday plans disrupted after Air New Zealand union workers announced plans to strike just before Christmas.

The Aviation and Marine Engineers Association and E tū informed the airline on Thursday of a "total strike" by almost a thousand unionised employees on Friday, December 21, Air NZ says.

It warns the strike could put the holiday plans of more than 40,000 people "at risk".

Air NZ general manager aircraft maintenance Viv de Beus says it appears the engineers are deliberately using Kiwi families' much anticipated Christmas holidays as a bargaining chip.

"We know how important summer holidays are for our customers who look forward to being able to gather with friends and family at this important time of year. It would be devastating to see the holiday plans of more than 40,000 hardworking Kiwis and international visitors ruined," he says.

"We have only been in negotiations with this group for six weeks so industrial action is entirely premature. We remain committed to working closely with the engineers' unions to reach a reasonable agreement and avoid strike action if at all possible."

But the aviation unions are accusing Air NZ of releasing "misleading information" and say they are striking due to demands for cuts to their conditions.

Savage, E tū's head of aviation, says union members feel "under-appreciated and under attack", and the strike is necessary to defend themselves.

"No one wants to disrupt people's Christmas plans, but Air New Zealand has taken an unnecessarily aggressive approach," he says.

"This is not just about pay. It's about repeated proposals by the airline weeks out from Christmas to pay them less than colleagues who have already settled, and to cut into key conditions, including overtime rates."

Air NZ will communicate with customers booked to travel on December 21 closer to the travel date if the workers go ahead with their strike action.