Air New Zealand's Koru Club full, causing passenger diversions

Author
Grant Bradley, NZ Herald,
Section
Business,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 9 October 2018, 4:22p.m.
The 'exceptionally high demand' has caused some passengers to be moved to an alternative lounge. (Photo / NZ Herald)
The 'exceptionally high demand' has caused some passengers to be moved to an alternative lounge. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Some Air New Zealand passengers travelling tomorrow have been told they can't get usual access to its international premium lounge because of ''exceptionally high demand''.

Instead they will have to use Auckland Airport's Strata Lounge, which offers some of the same facilities but is smaller, doesn't have a view of the airfield and not the same range of food and beverages.

A passenger bound for Fiji who normally gets lounge access got a message from the airline saying "unfortunately we will be unable to offer you access to the Air New Zealand lounge on this occasion, however we have arranged access to the Strata Lounge for you prior to your flight''.

The passenger, who wanted to remain anonymous, was annoyed.

''I'm disappointed that after paying a substantial amount of money for my membership, and in light of the fact I'm almost always travelling for business, the facilities I pay for may not be available for use,'' the passenger said.

''I'd be interested to know their selection criteria for who is actually given entry to the Koru Lounge – and who gets bumped to the Strata Lounge."

Air New Zealand's message from Alison Swarbrick, the manager of global lounges, who provided directions to the Strata Lounge which other airlines use for their premium passengers and can be booked by any traveller for $49 online, was: ''We are working towards a permanent solution with Auckland Airport that will allow us to increase our own Air New Zealand lounge capacity. In the meantime, however, we appreciate your understanding and look forward to welcoming you on board.''

An airline spokeswoman said the lounge was experiencing high demand at peak times, so in an effort to ensure that all eligible customers can get a seat before travel, the airline was asking some on selected flights to use the Strata Lounge.

''This is a better outcome than customers missing out on a lounge seat altogether due to its popularity. We continue to work closely with the airport company on options for a second lounge to meet the growing demand for Air New Zealand's premium services,'' the spokeswoman said.

Auckland Airport says provides an agreed number of paid spaces daily within Strata (early morning and late afternoon) for Air New Zealand passengers when the Koru lounge is at its busiest, particularly around holiday periods.

The airline is now communicating in advance to passengers on specific flights, that Strata Lounge is the preferred lounge to go to rather than being told when they arrive at the Koru lounge.

''This is a much better customer outcome as passengers are now made aware prior to heading to the airport for their flight.''

A spokesman said while it was busy in the Strata kitchen particularly during breakfast, the airport has calculated the number of spaces available during the times when Air NZ is in most need to ensure it could continue to accommodate premium guests from other airlines without impact on customer service or experience.

There's been an increase in the number of passengers travelling business class (who automatically get lounge access) on Air New Zealand and partner airlines including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and until October 28, Virgin Australia, which has put pressure on the lounge, which was rebuilt in 2015.

And in the current boom in travel the number of customers who are rising through the ranks of airline status schemes has also added to the number of those eligible also.

The Air New Zealand lounge has seating for 375 passengers and besides those travelling business class Airpoints Elite, Gold, Elite Partner, or Koru members, get access..

In this country one passenger complained there were too many children in the lounge which she said was not as elite as its image and around the world pressure on lounges is getting more acute as the number of travellers surges.

Air New Zealand is rebuilding its Auckland Airport regional lounge to triple its capacity.

It is part of a $60 million investment in lounges throughout New Zealand over the next two years.

The new Auckland regional lounge will cater for up to 265 customers and is scheduled to open in the middle of next year.

There are also plans for the airline's Wellington Airport domestic lounge to undergo a refurbishment in the coming months, with seating to increase by 10 per cent to 374.

A new regional lounge is currently under construction at Tauranga Airport and will offer three times more seating than the current lounge. It is expected to open later this year. Plans are also underway for brand-new regional lounges in Christchurch and Nelson.

Air New Zealand general manager customer experience Anita Hawthorne says the airline is focused on continued investment in its network of lounges to enhance the customer experience.

"Air New Zealand's customers are at the core of our business and we expect to see annual passenger numbers grow from 17 million to 19 million over the next two years, so it's important to invest in our lounges in order to meet this growth."

 

ON AIR: Marcus Lush Nights

8p.m. - 11:59p.m.