20 Jun 2012

CEO-designate says national airline set to grow

8:46 am on 20 June 2012

Air New Zealand's chief executive-designate Christopher Luxon says the airline is well placed for growth, despite the industry's struggles.

Mr Luxon joined the airline in May last year after a career with consumer products giant Unilever, and will replace chief executive, Rob Fyfe, when he stands down at the end of the year.

Christopher Luxon.

Christopher Luxon. Photo: AIR NEW ZEALAND

Fuel prices have fallen recently but a slowdown in global travel is forcing airlines around the world to cut flights and costs, and close routes.

Air New Zealand's domestic and trans-Tasman operations have performed well, and Mr Luxon says its struggling long-haul business is better placed than those of most of its rivals.

A 2015 target set by the nation's flag-carrier requires it to lift profit by $100 million dollars by then, and Mr Luxon says he's confident the airline can overcome the formidable obstacles in this challenge.

Air New Zealand chairman John Palmer says Mr Luxon has deep international business experience and a strong commercial and customer focus.

Analysts are not expecting any radical change under Mr Luxon's stewardship, but some say the sustainability of the loss-making London to Auckland route must be addressed, while the airline needs to focus more on Asia.

Mr Luxon is upbeat about the opportunities for growth despite the dampening influences of Europe's debt crisis on travel.

Mr Luxon says Air New Zealand is targeting corporates between Los Angeles and London to make that route profitable and identified the growth of the middle class in Asia.

Mr Luxon says expansion will also come through partnerships, citing the benefits of its deal with All Nippon Airways.

He says the eventual addition of Boeing's more fuel efficient and lighter Dreamliner planes to its fleet from the middle of 2014 will help counter higher fuel costs.

Air New Zealand is aiming to expand profit by $110 million by 2015