Air New Zealand restricts ticket sales as it battles fuel shortage at Auckland

AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND December 1, 2015. Jetstar commenced Regional New Zealand Services with the arrival of a Bombardier Q300 - Dash 8 aircraft from Napier to Auckland International Airport on December 1 2015. (Mike Millett)

Air New Zealand says it has taken the rare step of restricting ticket sales as part of its response to the ongoing fuel crisis at Auckland Airport.

The airport has been operating with a reduced fuel supply since Sunday after a pipeline which connects a refinery to the Wiri Oil Services facility near the airport was damaged.

With Auckland as its biggest hub, Air New Zealand has been the most affected of all airlines serving the country’s largest international gateway by the supply being reduced to only 30 per cent of normal usage.

The Star Alliance member has cancelled a host of domestic and trans-Tasman flights and taken on more fuel on domestic jet services from Wellington or Christchurch to limit refuelling in Auckland.

Meanwhile, a number of its long-haul services have been operating with a refuelling stop at selected airports Australia or the Pacific.

However, with the situation still ongoing, Air New Zealand said on Tuesday it had taken further measures in an effort to maintain its operations out of Auckland, including cancelling eight more flights scheduled for Wednesday.

“In order to reduce overall pressure on the network and ensure customers already booked are able to be re-accommodated with minimum disruption, Air New Zealand is taking the unusual step of restricting ticket sales,” the airline said on Tuesday.

“This includes stopping all sales on some selected international services.”

Further, the airline said it was no longer accepting ad hoc cargo shipments other than urgent medical equipment, while pre-arranged consignments heavier than the booked weight would not be accepted for carriage.

Some long-haul aircraft are also being ferried empty to Wellington for refuelling prior to operating services out of Auckland.

The airline said about 3,000 passengers would be impacted by Wednesday’s cancellations, with about 6,000 inconvenienced since the issue emerged over the weekend.

Air New Zealand chief operations integrity and standards officer Captain David Morgan said the airline was doing all it can to minimise disruption to passengers under very challenging circumstances.

“Our teams are working hard on solutions and we are communicating to impacted customers as quickly as we can. We appreciate their continued patience as we respond to this developing situation,” Morgan said.

Air New Zealand has published a list of flight cancellations on its website.

Off-duty staff are also joining the effort managing the cancellations, with cabin crew and managers helping clean aircraft and check passengers in, while pilots have volunteered to help ferry aircraft to Wellington.

Air New Zealand fleet team managers. (Air New Zealand)
Air New Zealand fleet team managers. (Air New Zealand)
Air New Zealand staff in Melbourne. (Air New Zealand)
Air New Zealand staff in Melbourne. (Air New Zealand)

Foreign carriers too have been forced to make alternative arrangements.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said its SQ286 Auckland-Singapore flight would make a refuelling stop in Sydney on Wednesday and Thursday, while Cathay Pacific CX198 is stopping in Brisbane enroute from Auckland to Hong Kong.

Virgin Australia and Qantas have also told their customers some services may be cancelled or diverted.

Comments

  1. Brad says

    Air NZ’s initial release to ASX said that they did not believe this will materially affect their financial performance. Given the number of cancellations and increased operating costs due to aircraft ferrying and unscheduled stops, I wonder how long before they need to update the Stock Exchange further.