Sunday, February 27, 2011

Headaches on new plane

Rob Fyfe,  CEO of Air New Zealand, sleeps on a Skycouch, which is still to be approved by the CAA. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Jet crash

The Air New Zealand marketing machine is almost as big and brash as the airline's new Boeing 777-300 jet.

But the campaign to promote new food, drink and innovative seats on its international flights has been marred by previously undisclosed delays.

Passengers have been forced to wait for their meals, as cabin crew struggle to dish up in the narrower economy class aisles. Now, the airline has decided to scrap one course - the pre-meal snack and bar service.

Air NZ crew have had issues heating meals in the new ovens in the 777-300, and have asked the manufacturer to replace casserole dishes that didn't meet specifications.

Despite massive international publicity, the so-called "cuddle class" lie-down seats have not yet been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.

One staff member, who would not be named, said the in-flight service was "a dog's breakfast" and cabin crew were very unhappy.

The 777-300 has carried more than 10,000 economy class passengers since it began flying last month. But the airline is dismissing the concerns as teething problems, and says Civil Aviation sign-off was expected to be a lengthy process.

The Skycouch - "cuddle class" - was officially unveiled more than a year ago, and has been heavily marketed.

It allows couples or families to lie across their seats, which are extended into a sleeping platform.

Air NZ corporate communications manager Tracy Mills said the Skycouch was in the final stages of authority approval and due to be completed before entering service in April.

Of the airline's Boeing 777-300ER's 224 economy seats, 60 will be configured to transform into 20 Skycouches.

A cuddle class round trip for two to London has been projected to cost around $6285 - about $400 dearer than two economy class seats.

The Civil Aviation Authority said the seats were still going through certification process: "To put equipment on board an aeroplane, it has to be checked out properly and certified and that's what's happening now."

Meanwhile, the planes have already been tried out on international routes, including the short hop to Australia and longer-haul flights.

The airline immediately encountered delays in its in-flight meal service, with each trolley now pushed by one cabin crew member, rather than the two used on other planes.

Part of the problem is understood to be with the ovens and with a "production issue" with the casserole dishes.

In its latest newsletter, the airline said its Kupe service (on its new Boeing 777-300s) was being simplified "based on feedback that customers love the aircraft and the food, but the service is taking too long".

This means some services have been cut - in economy, the welcome snack and pre-meal bar have been removed.

Mills dismissed claims the meal service had taken hours on international flights. "However, food delivery has taken up to 1 hours longer than desired while our staff familiarised themselves with the new food and beverage service," she said.

"Everyone has been very understanding and the new food and beverage service is now going well."

She said according to customer feedback, a pre-meal snack wasn't required. She supplied four passenger comments applauding the economy class service and the "extra-friendly staff" but none criticising them.






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Air NZ’s profit jump


Air New Zealand has posted normalised earnings before tax of NZ$112 million for the first half of the current financial year, up 33 per cent on the same half in the 2009-10 financial year.
The result (NZ$96 million after tax) includes an NZ$18 million gain on equity swaps relating to Air NZ’s recent investment in Virgin Blue. Statutory profit before tax was $115 million, up NZ$31 million on the same period in 2009.
“Overall Air New Zealand has had a strong six months. Passenger numbers, cargo volumes and yields have all increased year on year, with an increase in revenues of nine percent. This has been offset by costs relating to increased capacity, increasing fuel prices and losses from foreign exchange hedges,” Air New Zealand chairman John Palmer said.
“Air New Zealand continued to invest throughout the worst of the global financial crisis and is now in a far stronger competitive position as a result of our innovation, people and strategic alliances. We now have a solid platform to progress and build value from these investments.”
The airline has a net cash position of $940 million, while the board has declared a fully imputed interim dividend of three cents per share.
Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe said the last six months had been an “exciting period” for the airline, as it continued with new initiatives to strengthen its market position. “Bookings on our Tasman and Pacific Island services have increased 15 per cent since the introduction of the Seats to Suit product, performing far better than we expected. The trans-Tasman is an extremely competitive and important market for us and together with our alliance with Virgin Blue we are in a very strong market position,” Fyfe said.
“Domestic passenger numbers are also up eight percent on the same period last year and we are adding capacity to meet that increased demand as our new domestic A320 fleet arrives.
“Overall passengers load factors increased by 2.6 percentage points over the same period last year, group yield has increased by 3.0 per cent, we have added 2.7 per cent capacity and seen an increase of 6.0 per cent in demand.”
“Cargo revenue has recovered, up 13 per cent compared to last year. Volumes were up 6 per cent on a small capacity increase and a strong 10 per cent increase in yields. Improvements were achieved in all markets with the Pacific and Asian routes being the primary contributors.”
The airline says a key management focus will be assistance and recovery from the recent and devastating Christchurch earthquake, as the airline works with tourism partners to mitigate the economic effects.






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Air NZ continues extra flights and special fares to and from Christchurch

 Air NZ continues extra flights and special fares to and from Christchurch
February 25, 20110 comments
Press Release – Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand is continuing to add further capacity into and out of Christchurch to meet high demand, especially for people wishing to leave Christchurch .

Over the weekend Air New Zealand is operating the following additional services to and from Christchurch :

• Return Auckland – Christchurch service utilising 379 seat Boeing 747 aircraft
• Return Auckland – Christchurch service utilising 379 seat Boeing 747 aircraft
• A 171 seat Airbus A320 service operating Auckland – Christchurch – Wellington – Christchurch – Auckland

• Return Auckland – Christchurch service utilising 379 seat Boeing 747 aircraft
• Return Auckland – Christchurch service utilising 379 seat Boeing 747 aircraft

This capacity is in addition to Air New Zealand’s regular flight schedule which already offers more than 10,000 seats to and from Christchurch each day.

Special domestic $50 standby airfares
Air New Zealand is introducing special domestic standby $50 one way airfares on direct services to/from Christchurch . The special standby fares are available for sale from today for travel from Monday 28 February through until midnight Sunday 6 March.

Customers wishing to purchase the special standby fares can do so via the following channels:
• Air New Zealand Contact Centre: NZ 0800 737 000
• Air New Zealand Holidays Stores: NZ 0800 737 767
• In person at your nearest Air New Zealand Holidays Store

Reduction in pricing of standard airfares
In addition to the $50 standby airfares, Air New Zealand is adjusting the pricing of its domestic Christchurch airfares, ensuring that Smart Saver airfares are available on all direct flights to and from Christchurch for travel through to midnight Sunday 6 March. For example fares on all flights Christchurch – Auckland will be available for between $69 – $149, and Christchurch – Wellington for between $59 – $129.

The compassionate international fares will continue to be available.

Air New Zealand has also been offering ticketing flexibility since Tuesday on all fare types for those due to travel to and from Christchurch , who had booked prior to Tuesday 22 February. Full details are available on the airline’s website.

Air New Zealand strongly encourages customers who have bookings on flights to and from Christchurch which they no longer require to cancel their bookings so that other customers can make use of the seats.

Air New Zealand would like to acknowledge support of its partners in the aviation community including BP, Caltex, Greenstone and ExxonMobil who have been providing discounted fuel for the humanitarian flights and also Aviation Security, Wellington , Christchurch , Auckland and Queenstown airports who are waiving some of their airport-related fees.

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