Air passengers warned to prepare for disruptions as winter weather, staff shortages and engineering issues cause chaos

A perfect storm of winter weather, staff shortages and engineering issues is causing problems at airports across the country as airlines face their busiest school holiday period in years.

As a result Air New Zealand is warning passengers to prepare for disruptions and potential flight changes in the coming days.

When you've just walked off a 12-hour flight, a cancellation board is the last thing you want to see.

"I have to stay one more night here and rebook my flight from Hamilton, then fly to Christchurch - otherwise I have to wait until Wednesday," said traveller Juan Quiatanilia.

But for many customers at Auckland Airport on Sunday this was the reality.

Anita Reid is travelling back to Wellington for university. Her family drove two hours to get to the airport this morning.

"It's a lot of money for gas at the moment as well, and it's the only day we get off work to bring her back, and they can't even message us beforehand to let us know," her sister told Newshub.

Air New Zealand is facing its busiest July school holiday period in two years. Over the next two weeks, more than 672,000 customers are booked to travel, both domestically, and overseas.

But the airline is urging travellers to prepare for flight changes as winter weather, a wave of illnesses, and engineering issues hit the network at peak time.

Its CEO says most flights are full with limited capacity to move customers around but staff are doing everything they can to limit disruptions.

And in a statement to Newshub, Air NZ chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said its teams are working "around the clock" to get our customers where they need to go.

"We anticipate delays and cancellations may continue across the coming few days and we are actively working to reduce the disruption to our customers as much as possible," she said.

"When flights are cancelled or disrupted, we do our best to reaccommodate passengers on alternate services.

"Domestically, our flights southbound are fully booked over the coming few days, largely due to the school holiday period, so reaccommodating those who have been disrupted is more challenging than usual."

She added Air NZ has reinstated its flexibility policy, which allows customers to hold the value of their fare in credit for 12 months.

"I don't blame them at all, it's troublesome times, it's just unfortunate," traveller Jake Lonergan told Newshub.

But for some the stress was too much.

"I've got work tomorrow, so we can't be travelling up here everyday to know that you're going to be put on standby again," Anita's mother Anne Reid said.

It's not just Auckland under the pump but airports around the world as COVID restrictions begin to ease.

Christchurch Airport said its regional schedule is back to 100 percent of pre-COVID levels. It's expecting to see up to 20,000 passengers on its busiest days.

Many flying today just hoping that future travel is a lot less turbulent.