8 Apr 2024

Timaru business owner calls for airlines to be penalised when services are delayed

6:06 pm on 8 April 2024
Air New Zealand planes at Auckland Airport.

(File photo.) Photo: Unsplash / Douglas Bagg

A Timaru farmer and travel business owner is calling for the government to introduce a passenger charter so travel operators are penalised when services are delayed or cancelled.

It comes after Rangitata MP James Meager called for a more reliable air service to and from Timaru, and Air New Zealand's admission that their cancellation rate in the city was too high.

Timaru business owner Jeremy Talbot told Midday Report that Air New Zealand should be required to do better for passengers.

"The big issue is that fact that it's unreliable," he said.

Talbot also claimed the airline did not arrange alternative transport to get passengers to Timaru when flights were cancelled.

"The worst of it is if you're flying to Wellington in the morning and want to come back on the evening flight, and they cancel the evening flight, you're stuck.

"If you then go to get the Christchurch flight, yes - you can get the credit and get the flight down to Christchurch - [but] then you have to hire a one-way rental car to come to Timaru to do it, there is absolutely no help at all," he said.

"What we need in New Zealand is a public transport passenger charter, as most other countries have. So that it doesn't matter whether you're travelling by sea, land or air, there is some protection there."

However, Air New Zealand said it did offer road transport between Christchurch and Timaru wherever possible.

Air New Zealand general manager domestic Iain Walker said cancellation rates in Timaru were higher than the airline would like, but they were improving,

As of 21 March, Air New Zealand had cancelled 17 out of 263 flights into and out of Timaru, Walker said.

"A number of these flights were due to aircraft engineering requirements and a shortage of engineers.

"Several due to birds on the runway, which causes a safety issue, and we've also cancelled flights due to poor weather either in Timaru or in Wellington, where the inbound aircraft is coming from," Walker said.

"For some time now we've been talking about the challenges recruiting engineers. We've also been open about the global supply chain issues and difficulties in securing aircraft parts which contribute to our engineering challenges."

Air New Zealand was busy recruiting and training engineers to fill the staff shortages, he added.