Air New Zealand has started flying into storm-ravaged Napier, Gisborne and to New Plymouth as it works on recovering its schedule after a setback yesterday.
In coordination with government agencies, the airline is operating a special assistance flight, carrying communications support, emergency supplies and airport operational staff into Gisborne, which left at midday. The aim is to assess and secure the reopening of the Gisborne airport to reconnect the region with much-needed support and supplies.
“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of Cyclone Gabrielle on those affected regions, particularly Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay,” said Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty.
“We’re ready and waiting to support the national state of emergency response and are talking to affected communities about how we can help. We’re also supporting our own people who are still badly affected by the terrible weather. We will continue to monitor the situation and support wherever we can.”
Following the increased wind gusts yesterday afternoon, the airline was forced to halt its domestic and international operations out of Auckland resulting in a further 300 cancelled services.
Geraghty says while yesterday’s gusts set back the airline’s recovery from the initial cancellations, the network is largely operating as usual again today.
“With aircraft and crew displaced around the network, our morning operations were a little bumpy. But we’re largely back in the swing of things today and are completely focused on customer recovery.
“We got halfway there yesterday with our restart but, as we have throughout the recent weather events, we put safety first. It’s the right thing to do – every time.”
She said getting the airline operating largely as normal today was no small feat.
The airline had to divert nine services last night to other places such as Christchurch and Nadi, rework schedules to allow for the planes and crew it had out of place and bring a large proportion of turboprops back out of storage and then work to rebook and look after those who have been disrupted.
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“I’m continually amazed by the resilience of our Air New Zealand whānau – it has been one of the toughest periods in our history.”
She thanked customers who had been incredibly patient and understanding.
On top of yesterday’s disruption, the airline has had a total of 821 cancelled flights and 49,000 impacted customers since Cyclone Gabrielle began.
“We’ve again turned our focus to rebooking disrupted customers, with a focus on our 6500 international customers impacted from yesterday’s cancellations. We’re looking at where the areas of greatest need are and will be adding services and changing to larger aircraft where possible.
“This may take some time, so we once again ask customers for their patience while we work through this.”
The airline has added extra services to Nadi, Tahiti, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Apia to its international network as well as additional domestic services between Christchurch and Auckland to recover passengers that were diverted south. Extra flights to North America are also being explored.
The airline has extended flexibility for those customers affected by cyclone disruptions up to February 17.
International customers can now change travel up to March 8 without a change fee, service fee or fare difference applying. If travel is only available in a higher cabin, the fare differential will apply. Tickets can also be put into credit towards travel within 12 months.
For those travelling domestically, flexibility applies until February 22.
It advises customers who booked through a travel agent or third-party online agent should contact them directly about making changes to their bookings or credit validity.
Auckland Airport’s chief customer officer Scott Tasker said the company would be supporting airlines and airline ground handlers as they work to clear the backlog of travellers.
‘‘But it may take a couple of days for schedules to get back to normal. Certainly, our arrivals and departures boards are showing a number of cancellations and delays, particularly flights to and from those regional destinations that have been seriously impacted by flooding.’'
It was still possible there will be short-notice flight delays or airline cancellations, ”so please keep a close eye on updates from your airline or travel agent”.
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