Air New Zealand to cut 385 more jobs, but keeps Shanghai-based contractors - union

Air New Zealand appears set to cut a further 385 cabin crew jobs less than a month after the airline's CEO said there were "no plans to decrease or increase the number of staff" the airline has.

An internal email sent to airline staff on Wednesday said a lack of demand for international travel means there will be changes made to their international schedule and as a result, further job cuts.

Employers union E tū said it was aware of Air NZ's proposal to make around 385 cabin crew redundant by December, as part of its plans to cut staff numbers further, but says at the same time the company plans on retaining an agreement with a cabin crew hire company in Shanghai.

An E tū member who chose to remain anonymous says the redundancy proposal is "devastating" for crew, with the state of the industry wreaking havoc on their ability to earn a living.

"We've already lost 900 mid-to-long haul crew. We want to see Air NZ flourish and we want to save New Zealand jobs. Our goal is to see the airline bounce back as quickly as it can, so we can start getting our colleagues back," they say.

Speaking to Three's The AM Show on August 28, Air NZ's CEO Greg Foran said the airline had "no plans" to change the number of people it employs.

"Like any business we will constantly review our plans, but I can tell you that at this stage there are no plans to decrease or increase the number of staff we have," Foran said. 

But things have changed.

"Unfortunately the reduced schedule means we have a reduction in the number of crew we need for our wide body fleet," the email to staff said.

"We are now in a situation where we need to consider the size of our team in relation to both the immediate and medium to long term demand."

Air New Zealand is putting its entire fleet of Boeing 777s into storage.
Air New Zealand is putting its entire fleet of Boeing 777s into storage. Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Air NZ's chief operating officer Carrie Hurihanganui confirmed to Newshub there were changes being made to the airline's international schedule, including reducing its Los Angeles flights from daily to three return flights per week and converting all San Francisco flights to cargo only services. 

"We recognise that a reduced schedule will require a smaller number of cabin crew going forward and we are working through what this means for the team. Any decision we make will be made in consultation with our people and the unions, with redundancies as the last resort," Hurihanganui said.

"We appreciate that our cabin crew have already made significant sacrifices throughout COVID-19, but sadly our international schedule remains largely limited by border restrictions and unfortunately there is not enough flying to provide sustainable rosters for the number of crew we have."

E tū head of aviation, who goes by the name Savage, says while crew can see the damage COVID-19 has done to the aviation sector, there is no operational reason for Air NZ to retain a crew base in Shanghai.

"The Shanghai base has always been about paying crew less and devaluing the role of cabin crew. Outsourcing is a barrier to raising standards in aviation and it needs to end. When the work comes back, it needs to come back to Auckland-based cabin crew," he says.

Savage says the airline and the jobs it provides are a vital piece of New Zealand's infrastructure.