Air New Zealand is putting on more flights and using larger aircraft to deal with a backlog of customers after widespread disruption over the school holidays, but it could still be days before the airline recovers from the string of cancellations.
The national carrier canceled about 20 flights on Sunday – one of its busiest days over the July school holiday period – as bad weather and sick staff continued to push it to the limit.
Chief customer and sale officer Leanne Geraghty said the backlog from the 181 flights canceled as a result of severe gales in Wellington on Thursday had been cleared.
“As part of efforts, Air New Zealand is putting on a 300-seater 787 from Auckland to Christchurch to Auckland tomorrow (Monday). There will be additional flights out of Christchurch to Queenstown and Wellington today and tomorrow to help customers return home.
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“Unfortunately, we’re still experiencing a perfect storm of a very busy end to the school holidays, with ongoing weather and crew sickness causing disruptions.
“Due to these rolling disrupts, recovery might take several days, and we’re working through potential alternative transport options for customers and encouraging those with non-urgent travel to push their fare in credit.”
More than 20 flights showed as canceled on Auckland Airport’s domestic board on Sunday morning. Most were Air New Zealand flights, but Jetstar and Barrier Air services were also affected.
An Auckland Airport spokesperson said flight disruptions on Sunday had been “minimal”.
“At this stage, there are two canceled domestic departures and three canceled domestic arrivals from now through to tomorrow afternoon.
“As always in busy periods such as the school holidays, we recommend people get to the terminal with plenty of time before their flight and if flying internationally, ensure they have all the correct documentation with them.”
Seven flights showed as canceled on Christchurch Airport’s domestic arrivals and departures board on Sunday morning. Wellington Airport’s online flight information showed all Sunday services were either going ahead as scheduled or slightly delayed.
An Air New Zealand spokesperson said on Friday, when about 40 flights were axed, that 126,000 passengers would be affected over the weekend.
Christchurch man Ralph Vugts said he booked a flight with Qantas after his Air New Zealand flight home from Sydney was canceled as the national carrier couldn’t accommodate him for five days.
“My co-worker also had his flight canceled and ended up on hold for three hours trying to sort out his flights and ended up on Qantas as well,” he said.
“I couldn’t be bothered with that so took the credit instead, which was frustrating as I had to pay Qantas for the new flight. If I want a refund I have to call them and sit on hold for hours, which is a bit ridiculous. “
Air New Zealand urges all passengers affected by cancellations to change their date of travel online.
Under the airline’s Covid-19 flexibility policy, customers booked to travel between now and August 31 will not be charged a fee to do so, although they may have to pay more if the new fare is more expensive. Customers can also hold the value of their fare in credit for 12 months.
Travelers are also asked to check the airline’s arrivals and departures page for the latest flight information, and to subscribe to its “travel alerts”.