Air New Zealand says it will establish a team with expertise in “large-scale international disruption” to be dispatched to international ports in the event of significant flight disruptions, a key outcome for an internal review into the delays that saw over 220 passengers booked on an NZ9 service from Honolulu to Auckland stranded in Honolulu for up to three days last week while a techical issue with the operating aircraft was resolved.
The “root cause” of the incident was “an engineering issue” with the operating aircraft, a Boeing 767-300ER, but chief executive officer Christopher Luxon said in a statement that the review also found shortcomings in Air New Zealand’s international flight disruption management processes, including how staff communicate with affected passengers. The report also found that “some of our staff may have failed to meet the high standards expected of them”.
“I would like to apologise again to our customers whom we let down in Honolulu. This disruption should have been managed better on many levels and some valuable lessons have been learned across our airline,” Luxon said on Wednesday.
“Over the past week my team has spoken to every NZ9 customer for whom we have contact information and they have given us some excellent feedback that will help us improve our systems and processes. I am extremely grateful for the frank and constructive nature of the conversations we’ve had and I hope that our customers see the set of actions outlined today as an indication of how seriously we take this incident and how determined we are to learn from it.”
As well as setting up an international flight disruption team, other outcomes of the review include investing in a new communication system for keeping in direct contact with passengers affected by significant disruptions (the airline says one such system is already being trialled) and “enhanced” training for international airport management staff in disruptions.
In addition, Air New Zealand says that “Interviews are underway with pilots and cabin crew who were in Honolulu during the disruption to determine whether there were any breaches of the company’s Code of Conduct;” and that “All Air New Zealand staff will be reminded of the company’s Code of Conduct to ensure there can be no misunderstanding of expected standards.”
The New Zealand Herald last Friday reported that during the delay some NZ9 crew were “understood to have been drinking and would have been unfit for duty at one stage even if their plane had been airworthy”.
Air New Zealand last week unreservedly apologised to NZ9 passengers for the delay, saying it would compensate each passenger with NZ$1,000 in either cash or Airpoints Dollars.