10 Jun 2024

Air New Zealand halts flights to Nouméa until September due to unrest in New Caledonia

1:04 pm on 10 June 2024
Air New Zealand

Air NZ customers who have flights booked to New Caledonia can apply for a full refund. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Air New Zealand is pausing its Auckland to Nouméa service due to ongoing violent unrest in New Caledonia.

The Nouméa-La Tontouta International Airport has been closed since destructive riots broke out in New Caledonia on 13 May, with protest barricades blocking the main road between the airport and city.

The closure of the airport made it challenging for the service to continue, Air NZ short-haul general manager Jeremy O'Brien said.

Customers with flights booked to New Caledonia could apply for a full refund.

"Customers booked directly with Air New Zealand to travel to Nouméa will have their flights automatically held in credit. Due to limited options and continued uncertainty in the region, customers will not be rebooked on flights to Nouméa via alternative services."

Air NZ planned to return to Nouméa after 28 September.

Hundreds affected

Hundreds of people hoping to head to New Caledonia for the New Zealand winter would have to look for alternatives, House of Travel chief operating officer Brent Thomas said.

"Finding places like in Fiji or in Rarotonga is quite difficult because they are well booked out months in advance."

He put the flight suspensions down to "uncertainty" saying it would be difficult for the airline to reposition aircraft.

"Air New Zealand does have some issues with the jet engines, not of their making, of course," Thomas told Midday Report.

"So, if they can redeploy a plane to a better service somewhere else where they can have a plane that is going to be full, then that is going to be more economical for them and therefore better for their customer experience too."

Nouméa was not a major destination in the South Pacific, he said, but hundreds of travellers would be affected over the next three months.

On 5 June, some commercial flights resumed from Nouméa.

Air Calédonie International has put on a limited number of international flights.

But Air NZ said the airport had not technically reopened.

Six flights last month brought more than 250 New Zealanders home after they were stranded in New Caledonia when the airport closed.

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