Air New Zealand hits back at 'malicious rumours'

BELINDA MCCAMMON
Last updated 19:43 22/06/2011

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Air New Zealand's chief executive has hit back at what he calls a campaign of "malicious rumours'' against the airline within the industry after it continued to operate during ash cloud while other airlines chose to ground their aircraft last week.

Ash cloud from Mt Puyehue Cordon Caulle in Chile drifted across Australia, the Tasman Sea and New Zealand last week, causing Qantas and Jetstar to cancel many of its flights and causing disruption to thousands of travellers, while Air New Zealand continued many of it's trans Tasman services.

Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe has sent a staff memo in a bid to quash what he said was misinformation and false rumours against the airline and to assure people the airline was not endangering lives or compromising safety.

Fyfe said despite all those in the flight operations team working hard last week to maintain safe operations "behind the scenes however we were constantly battling a series of malicious rumours that emerged from the Australian market and fed to media, suggesting that Air New Zealand had six aircraft in the hangar with ash damage, an aircraft grounded in Australia with ash damage and an aircraft requiring a nose cone replacement as a result of ash damage''.

"All these stories were a complete fiction and I was left scratching my head as to where these false rumours were coming from.''

Last Friday, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce emailed the airline's frequent flyers explaining it grounded its aircraft while Air New Zealand and Virgin continued to fly.

"What Alan [Joyce, Qantas CEO] omitted to mention was that it wasn’t just Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia that had managed to adapt their operations to operate safely in clear air, but all airlines apart from Qantas and Jetstar had managed to achieve the vast majority of their operations.

"What Alan also failed to mention was that Qantas was very happy to transfer thousands of its customers onto Air New Zealand and other airlines’ services, which seems a strange thing to do for your customers if you have concerns about the safety of the airspace.''

Fyfe said Air New Zealand continued to fly with advice from it's own team and from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, Met Service and Air Traffic Control/Airways New Zealand.

"Whenever we perceived a risk that our clear air requirements would be compromised we ceased services, but fortunately this happened on relatively few occasions.''

Fyfe said with ash re-entering Australian airspace today the airline would again have a busy time ahead and the airline would "continue to adopt a similar approach to flight to that we achieved last week, maintaining operations where we are confident we can do so safely without any heightened risk to our aircraft, crew and passengers''.

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"It is also likely that we will see Qantas and Jetstar come under further customer and media pressure if they continue to adopt this strategy of grounding aircraft and it is possible that we will continue to see misinformation and false rumours emerge in the market.''

Qantas are yet to comment on Fyfe's statement, other than to say they are aware of it.

- Stuff

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