Air New Zealand slashes flight schedule, 100,000 passengers will be affected

Air New Zealand is reducing its flight schedule, which will see 100,000 passengers impacted as flights are cancelled or rescheduled.

Over the next six months, the airline will operate a slightly reduced schedule of 1.5 percent fewer seats than originally planned, meaning a change to some flights.

Air NZ chief executive officer Greg Foran told AM the move has been made so the airline can keep up with demand.

"It's 100,000 [passengers] out of about 11 million, so it works to be about 1.5 percent in a reduction in seats," he told AM co-host Ryan Bridge.

"The reason for it is really simple, we want to give ourselves a little bit of insurance as we build into the very important Christmas period and a bit more surety for passengers in terms of their travel and secondly we want to make sure our staff are able to cope with the strong demand we've seen in passengers coming back."

Most customers affected will be transferred to another flight on the same day for domestic travel, and for international travel, on the same day or a day on either side of their original booking, Air NZ said in a statement.

Customers who cannot be accommodated within these timeframes can change their booking online or opt into credit or request a refund, the statement said.

Those customers affected will start to see them from Thursday and will be automatically transferred to another flight.

Foran told AM around one international flight out of about 65 on average per day will be affected.
He told AM he "hopes" passengers affected on domestic and international flights will be transferred to flights on the same day.

Foran said the airline is currently working through if passengers will get a refund if they miss a connecting flight with a different airline because of the changes.

"We need to work through those on an individual basis and that's what our team do and we have been building up our call centre staff over the last three months to be able to deal with that," he told AM.

"I'm pleased to see we've been able to get our wait time down at the call centre."

In a statement announcing the changes, Foran said making these changes will help the airline provide a service that's more reliable during its rebuild.

"Like many airlines around the world, we've been ramping up our operation at a time when COVID and the flu continue to impact the aviation industry," Foran said in a statement.

"While we did factor sickness into our ramp up plan, we've seen the highest rates of crew sickness in over a decade. We see these challenges continuing not just for crew, but for our whole operation, and so we're making proactive changes to address them."

Foran said reducing the number of flights means the airline will be able to have crew on standby to cover illness, which has not been possible lately.

"We have rehired or brought on more than 2000 pilots, airport staff, cabin crew, contact centre and engineers, and we're going as fast as we can with recruitment and training.

Air NZ's domestic and international schedule will be operating at 90 percent of pre-COVID-19 capacity for the next six months.