23 Mar 2022

800 staff return to Air NZ as travel takes off again

From Checkpoint, 6:07 pm on 23 March 2022

Air New Zealand has brought back 800 furloughed or former staff before the border reopens to tourists.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said it was a combination of pilots and flight attendants.

"They're really thrilled to be back."

However, he told Checkpoint unvaccinated pilots would not return just yet.

"Not at this point, until we change our policies on that and that's something that we're considering."

He said the airline would look to bring back all the staff it had let go.

"We ended up letting 4500 Air New Zealanders go ... that's reflective of what happens when a business loses 95 percent of its revenue. The great thing about it is we're now seeing a recovery. It's been almost 800 days since this began and we're excited about being able to get up and running."

Today the airline also revealed it would be flying to New York City from September. The trip is at least 17 hours long.

Air NZ estimates the three-flight per week service could pump $65 million a year into Aotearoa.

The news comes on the same day the government announced significant loosening of Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates.

Air NZ CEO Greg Foran discusses the airlines response to Covid-19 at Air New Zealand HQ on March 20, 2020.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Foran said Air NZ was reviewing its policies too.

"We've got our international vaccination policy in place where you need to be vaccinated to fly on an Air New Zealand plane. We implemented domestic vaccinations back on the 14th of December last year."

Among a suite of measures, he said the airline also stopped food service on domestic flights and improved the quality of masks for staff.

He said the direct flight to New York was an exciting move.

"I quite like the idea of getting on a plane in Auckland and arriving at may be 16 or 17 hours later, but flying into JFK and then an hour later being downtown New York. I'll put up with the extra time on the plane on the basis that it's direct."

Those flights were initially reserved for the UK but Foran said the airline had set its eyes on the US instead.

"We've got even more excited about New York's and so they've picked up NZ1 and NZ2 and that becomes a bit of a flagship destination."

As for expensive flights to Australia, he said the airline had put on some more flights but it was specifically busy during the Easter period.

"I would also remind everyone that was the price of fuel sitting where it is, we've got a responsibility to make sure that we can try and get a return on some of these flights as well. But I do appreciate that prices are reasonably high at this point. And we are looking at what we can do to get a few more flights on."