No faith in flight service

21:00, Jun 11 2012

Ten per cent of flights in and out of Timaru have been cancelled in the past 10 weeks, with Air New Zealand looking at ways to overcome the problem.

Since April 1, 24 of the 203 scheduled return flights from Timaru to Wellington have been cancelled. Tomorrow night's service has also been cancelled because of maintenance problems.

The latest cancellation comes on top of two return flights being cancelled during Queen's Birthday Weekend.

Air New Zealand spokeswoman Tracey Palmer said yesterday that the airline was disappointed at the continued number of cancellations and was looking at initiatives, such as additional capacity, "to ensure we can provide the on-time, reliable and safe standards that we strive for".

At 89.4 per cent, the cancellation rate was well below the airline's stated target of having 98 per cent of services fly.

Ms Palmer said the aircraft that required unscheduled maintenance before Queen's Birthday Weekend was still not back in service. The maintenance was required as a fault had been discovered around a cargo door.

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The company had been unable to find an alternative aircraft for tomorrow night's flight.

Timaru Mayor Janie Annear plans to take up the matter of Timaru's cancelled flights with Air New Zealand operator Eagle Air.

And to ensure she gets to appointments on time, she has taken to flying the previous day.

"I am on a couple of boards that meet quarterly and [this year] I have started going up the night before. There is a feeling you cannot rely on the flights."

Mrs Annear said she had no problems with flights being cancelled because of weather conditions, but was less impressed with the number canned in recent months due to maintenance requirements.

"I am certainly going to be contacting Eagle Air [general manager Carrie Hurihanganui]."

Mrs Annear said she understood the company realised this level of service "was not appropriate to this community".

"I have to say it is a fantastic service, but we do need the reliability factor. We have to have that otherwise it is going to erode the confidence [of users].

"When it is a maintenance issue yet again, that whole thing of the safety of the plane starts to become prominent in people's minds."

The Timaru flights had been well patronised, but she was concerned people would opt to fly from Christchurch rather than use the Timaru services if they were not reliable.

"It is just the most terrible beginning to the day, to have to bus to Christchurch [when your flight is cancelled]."

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24 Timaru return flights have been cancelled since April 1.

Two return flights were cancelled over Queen's Birthday Weekend. Tomorrow night's flight from Wellington and the return Thursday morning flight have been cancelled.

Eagle Air operated 1095 flights from Timaru in the 12 months to April 1, with 49 flights being cancelled. Air New Zealand aims to fly 98 per cent of its flights.

The Timaru Herald