Air New Zealand adding 200 call centre staff members as lengthy wait times frustrate customers

Air New Zealand is drastically ramping up the size of its call centre team amid an increasing number of bookings, with customers facing long wait times on the phone.

The company has acknowledged it is currently not providing "the level of service we're known for" as some travellers are forced to wait for hours to speak to a consultant.

Air NZ is now in the process of adding an additional 200 staff members to its current team of around 250, meaning there will be more than 450 call centre staff once training is complete in around eight weeks.

The call centre is under strain as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease, seeing a dramatic increase in the number of Kiwis organising air travel and a greater proportion wanting to speak with the airline for assistance.

The airline's Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty told Newshub these customers should not be waiting as long as they currently are.

"I can certainly acknowledge how frustrating that experience will have been for our customers - that level of customer service is not what we want to deliver at all," she said.

"We are working full steam ahead to get it sorted out and get resourced up properly, as quickly as we can, and get back to delivering the service standard that we're proud of and known for."

Air NZ said previously around one in eight customers phoned prior to travel, but now it's around one in three. 

Many customers, along with those of Jetstar and other airlines and travel providers, are currently holding credits due to the pandemic putting paid to travel plans. Air NZ credits can be used to make bookings via its website, which also has links to the information one would require regarding COVID-19 requirements.

However, there are certain situations where one must phone Air NZ to complete a booking.

"The online self-service tools aren't built to manage some of the complexity that we now see as we're getting through the pandemic and out the other side. For example if there is another carrier involved or if the customer wants to add additional forms of payment, that's where it becomes a little bit trickier and they would need to call," said Geraghty.

"Also, you know, with government conditions and requirements changing frequently, they may want to speak to someone and just confirm that they've got all of their requirements correct ahead of travel for reassurance."

As well as hiring 200 new staff members, Air NZ said it is also redeploying existing personnel to help out in the meantime.

The airline is encouraging anyone "passionate about delivering a high level of service" to apply for a role at its call centre.