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Jet fuel rationing: Airlines scrambling to avoid pre-Xmas cancellations

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 7 Dec 2022, 3:42PM

Jet fuel rationing: Airlines scrambling to avoid pre-Xmas cancellations

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 7 Dec 2022, 3:42PM

Airlines are urgently working on solutions to a shortage of jet fuel after a shipment of jet fuel was rejected at Marsden Point terminal.

Cath O’Brien, executive director of Board of Airline Representatives of New Zealand (Barnz), says airlines will do all they can to solve problems before they cancel flights as they face fuel supplies out of Auckland cut by up to 25 per cent.

“We’re asking people who intend to travel before Christmas to have patience while we gather the information airlines need to make decisions about flights,” she said.

She said airlines will keep customers informed so there is no need to call your airline to ask if your flight is affected. Both Air New Zealand and Jetstar have told the Herald there aren’t yet any changes to their schedules.

Rationing of fuel will affect both domestic and international flights after a shipment of about 25 million litres was found to not be up to specification.

To conserve fuel some aircraft might take off with less export cargo.

New Zealand depends on aircraft to take perishables, like chilled seafood, to overseas markets. Many imports, including medicines, also come by air.

 “The ramifications of this issue are huge,” O’Brien said.

“To refuel on route means getting regulatory approval, trying to find ground handling staff and even having to reposition crew if they need to go over the planned hours of work. Then the aircraft still has to make an allocated landing slot.”

Airlines have a variety of solutions.

Those solutions included “tankering”, which means filling up to capacity in short-haul ports like Australia to help with onward journeys.

“Barnz members have begun to receive advice from their suppliers that they will receive 75 per cent of what they had planned to use out of Auckland Airport,” O’Brien said.

 “They are working with that information and designing solutions.”

“Airlines, emerging from heavy Covid-19 losses and facing a rocky rebuild with a shortage of staff and planes want to know as soon as possible what is being done to solve the shortage problem.

“While a shipment is due to arrive at Marsden Point on December 12, that was expected anyway. The impacted shipment still creates a supply hole. Are additional supplies being sought, or can the fuel supplier clean the rejected load?”

O’Brien said Barnz is in close communication with Government officials on these issues.

She said Barnz will be seeking to understand contingencies in place for jet fuel supply, so that its members have confidence operating flights to New Zealand without disruption.

The supply threat comes at a time when overseas-based airlines are looking at where to deploy capacity next year. Any unreliability of fuel supply would be a barrier for some route planners.

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