Air New Zealand well equipped for Tasman bubble 'hiccup,' says Foran

The airline is also looking to move its downtown Auckland office to the airport precinct.
The airline is also looking to move its downtown Auckland office to the airport precinct. Photo credit: Air New Zealand

Originally published by RNZ.

Air New Zealand is down by about 20 flights a day while the travel bubble is on hold, and the company plans to relocate its headquarters, chief executive Greg Foran says. 

Cabinet met on Monday and agreed to extend Wellington's alert level 2 status until 11.59pm Tuesday evening. The pause on quarantine-free travel was also extended to all of Australia, and will last for the same duration.

Air NZ chief executive Greg Foran told RNZ's Checkpoint the 'hiccup' was causing plenty of disruption for customers and the airline.

He said the airline had been doing about 30 flights a day but that had dropped back to about 10 a day.

"We're still running a cargo business and in terms of the financial impact that's something that we'll just work through, it's a bit early to tell exactly what that's going to be until we get some sense of how long this is going to continue."

He estimated flights across the Tasman made about 15 to 20 percent of the company's revenue. 

He said Air NZ was still operating in the Cook Islands and he was confident that in time they would be flying back across the Tasman to Australia.

Air New Zealand's inaugural Cairns and Sunshine Coast flights had to be cancelled, but Foran said the next planned flights there would be reassessed when there was a better sense of what was happening in Australia.

He said there had been a lot of interest in getting flight credits after the trans-Tasman travel bubble was paused.

The call centre had 12,000 calls yesterday and consequently wait times increased, he said, thanking customers for their patience.

Foran said just under 80 percent of all Air New Zealand's frontline staff had now been vaccinated.

"As soon as we can get people vaccinated, then I think it gives us a sense of getting some of these borders open a bit wider than just Australia and Rarotonga."

Foran said he was pretty confident that all New Zealanders who wanted to be vaccinated would have been by the year of the year, as promised by the government.

He said the trans-Tasman bubble was definitely worth it.

"The important thing is it gave a chance for, you know, family and friends to reconnect, we were seeing increasing business traffic as people were getting confident."

Foran said there was always a risk that something like this would occur which is why procedures were put in place, but he was optimistic the bubble will be up and running soon, and he was not worried people would be put off travelling to Australia in the long term. 

He said it was likely Air New Zealand headquarters would move out to premises at Auckland Airport, from its building at Wynyard Quarter.

"It's something that we're looking at, at this stage. As we do that assessment there's a good chance that could well occur."