Air New Zealand has announced it will give NZ$1,000 worth of company shares to all of its permanent employees, in recognition of their efforts during the past year.
It comes as the airline anticipates reporting a loss for the 2020-21 financial year of up to NZ$450 million, in light of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the global travel market.
Despite the impending loss, Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said that the reward of shares to its permanent employees is the “right thing to do” following a year of uncertainty, struggle, wage cuts and stand-downs.
It also follows news that Foran himself had been awarded nearly NZ$2 million in shares, in a move the E tū union equated to “rubbing salt into an already painful wound”, following thousands of job losses and millions of dollars in wage cuts due to the pandemic.
The share award will be offered to about 8,000 employees across New Zealand and Australia, while employees at overseas bases will be offered a cash equivalent.
The shares will be awarded in Q4 of the 2021 calendar year, the airline said.
“By awarding shares to our employees, we want them to have the chance to benefit from the future success we will really need their help to deliver,” Foran said.
“I’m immensely proud of the way our people have responded to the COVID-19 crisis. They have risen to the occasion, working hard to keep New Zealand connected and Kiwis safe.”
Foran noted that some Air New Zealand pilots and cabin crew spent over 100 days in total in isolation in order to fulfil their roles and repatriate New Zealanders back home during the pandemic, while the airline’s cargo team has assisted in sending over 100,000 tonnes of NZ products across the globe.
“Day in-and-out our people have done, and continue to do, everything they can in challenging and changing conditions to keep our customers safe,” Foran said.
On top of this reward, the airline has committed to return all of its employees on reduced salaries back up to full-time pay from 1 July 2021.
“These steps are possible because we’re on a more stable financial footing given our strong domestic business and growing Tasman and Cook Islands revenues,” Foran said.
“While a full recovery is still some time away, the changes announced today recognise that we cannot get there without an exceptional and ongoing contribution by our dedicated Air New Zealand team.
“We thank our people for the sacrifices made over the past 15 months and for their ongoing commitment to our customers in the coming year.”
Air New Zealand said its domestic capacity now sits at 90 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels, while it’s trans-Tasman capacity sits at around 70 per cent, thanks to the travel bubble announced between Australia and New Zealand in April.
A meaningful recovery in long-haul international travel is still some time off however, in light of New Zealand’s strict border restrictions, with current capacity at just 5 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
“The airline has its eyes firmly set on the future as we move out of the ‘survive’ phase and into revival mode,” Foran said, noting that the airline will focus now on strengthening its domestic business, and the customer experience.
The airline has recently re-negotiated its delivery date with Boeing for the first of its eight new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, initially ordered in 2019, to now take delivery in 2024.