8 Jul 2022

Covid-disruptions continue to plague Air New Zealand

4:33 pm on 8 July 2022

Covid-19 is continuing to cause problems for flyers as the country heads into the busy school holiday period.

A flight attendant welcomes passengers onto an Air New Zealand flight.

Air New Zealand has had to cancel some flights due to staff illness. Photo: Supplied/ Air NZ

Air New Zealand has had to cancel some of its flights due to staff sickness.

It has also had to look for nearly two hundred more call centre staff to field questions from travellers, including queries about rebooking flights, and pandemic travel rules.

The airline's chief executive, Greg Foran, told Nine to Noon it was trying to find a balance between putting on as many flights as possible to enable travel over the school holidays and ensuring the company was able to "deliver that schedule".

"I know that yesterday we had to unfortunately cancel a flight down to Christchurch due to sickness, but we fly hundreds of flights a day, so if we can keep that down to an absolute minimum and still get as many people where they need to get to, then that's really the challenge that we've got in front of us."

In a statement, Foran said flights were incredibly full over the school holiday period and people may not be able to change them if they needed to.

"Our teams are working hard to ensure any disruptions are as minimal as possible, however, as flights are incredibly full over the next few weeks there is unfortunately limited spare capacity to move customers to alternative flights."

Tumultous weather was also likely to cause some disruptions to flights over the coming days, he said.

Foran told RNZ he did not think Air New Zealand would have to reduce capacity in the face of rising Covid-19 cases in the community, but said if necessary the airline would "take the appropriate action".

"One of the things that I think we've all learnt over this period is the ability to be quite adaptable and agile as you work through things."

He said the airline was carefully monitoring the increase in Omicron cases and it would take guidance around whether to offer credit to customers who couldn't fly due to sickness if new information about the Covid-19 situation in New Zealand was received from officials.

High call centre volumes

Foran said he was very aware of the airline's call centre wait times, which were due to a combination of factors.

More than 170 additional staff had been employed in that part of the business, but the centre was processing three times as many calls as before the pandemic and each call was taking about 2.5 times as long, he said.

"There would not be four hours that goes by in my waking day that I'm not keeping track of what the wait times are like on that call centre. It's a big deal for all of us."

Foran said despite ongoing challenges, the airline's operations were in "ok" shape.

"It's not perfect, but relative to what I'm seeing elsewhere around the world I'm very proud of the way we're up and running."

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