Duncan Garner: Tough road ahead for Air New Zealand to recover from COVID-19 pandemic

OPINION: I can't remember the last time I was at an airport. I can't remember the last time I flew or even booked a  flight.

It's like Air New Zealand has disappeared entirely from my life. They are still there - loyally still putting on smiles and brave faces, a cheerful greeting, and strangely, in these tough times still putting on wine and cheese and club sandwiches in the fancy departure lounge despite the total bloodbath out the back.

This was an airline with $6 billion of annual revenues but equally $5.6 billion in costs.

It all looked good in the good times, that's a $400 million profit. But it left little wriggle room for a pandemic, and COVID-19 blindsided them.

Their public response faltered - and some of the top brass were saying it'll blow over. But now this world class set-up has just a billion dollars of revenue and the costs haven't come down as easily.

Buildings are still being rented, staff need to be paid and it's scrambling to shed more costs.

Already 4000 staff have been ditched, and the longer this pandemic goes on the more chance that CEO Greg Foran will have to let another 4000 staff go before Christmas.

The road ahead looks bloody rough and uninviting. So Foran's job is not to return Air NZ to its past glory, not yet. His job now is simply to save the national airline, and while of course the Government will always be there as a backstop, he needs to also maintain and save its relative "independence".

The experts are saying this is a two-year event, maybe three. But we aren't even one year in yet.

So fasten your seatbelts please, unfortunately the emergency exits are unavailable on this flight.

Duncan Garner is host of The AM Show.