Air NZ starts to restrict ticket sales and cancels more flights as Auckland jet fuel crisis deepens
Air New Zealand has taken the extraordinary step of restricting ticket sales, including halting sales of some international services.
The airline has been taking increasingly disruptive steps to hit the target of cutting its fuel uptake from Auckland Airport to 30 per cent of normal.
Mobil Oil, BP and Z Energy have asked airlines to reduce their fuel consumption to 30 per cent of their normal level while Refining NZ repairs a broken pipeline that pipes jet fuel to the airport.
The 168 kilometre pipeline – which carries jet fuel, petrol and diesel directly from the oil refinery at Marsden Point in Northland to tanks in Wiri, south Auckland – has been out of action since Thursday afternoon after it was damaged, apparently by a digger.
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Air NZ also announced that it is cancelling another nine international flights to Australia, the Pacific and Vietnam, all of which were due to take off on Wednesday.
It is on top of 12 domestic and two international flights scheduled for Wednesday which had already been cancelled.
"Air New Zealand estimates up to 3000 customers will be impacted by cancellations tomorrow with around 6000 inconvenienced by unexpected schedule changes," the company said in a statement.
"Further disruptions can be expected in coming days."
In a bid to help customers which are facing disruption from the cancelled flights, Air New Zealand said it was taking the "unusual step of restricting ticket sales".
Sales of some international flights have been stopped altogether. A spokeswoman said the airline had closed sales for new bookings to all long haul and Pacific Island destinations for travel through until Sunday and all trans-Tasman services for travel tomorrow and Thursday.
"Customers who need to travel urgently for compassionate reasons only should contact our contact centre to discuss," Air New Zealand said.
Earlier, Air New Zealand said it was flying long haul planes to the capital purely to refuel, as the airline struggles to cope with the Auckland jet fuel crisis.
On Tuesday evening the airline said in a statement that a Boeing 777-200 would fly to Wellington with only the pilots on board.
It will fill up with fuel, then return to Auckland, in preparations for further long haul operations.
In recent days Air New Zealand's long haul flights have been having extra stopovers, primarily in Nadi in Fiji.
Airlines have been asked to cut the amount of jet fuel drawn from Auckland Airport to 30 per cent of normal uptake.
On Monday evening Air New Zealand said it was not hitting the target, forcing more flights to be cancelled.
Tuesday's update shows the problems are broadening, with stopovers in the Pacific depleting supplies there.
Air New Zealand chief operations integrity & standards officer Captain David Morgan said the added step was to accommodate declining supplies in the Pacific.
"On that basis we are switching to a different mode of operation whereby Wellington, supplemented by Australia and those Pacific destinations able to support fuel uplifts, will be used to source the extra fuel required to maintain scheduled services."
Wellington Airport's runway is too short for long haul flights, however some large planes can take off from the airport if they have limited loads.
Refining NZ - which owns the pipeline and is undertaking the repairs - insisted it was on track to repair the pipeline sometime between midday on Sunday and midday on Tuesday.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the incident could damage New Zealand's reputation, and threw attention onto well known vulnerabilities in the city's infrastructure.
"It's not great for the reputational brand for New Zealand, or Auckland," Goff said, adding that the consequences of the outage were "dramatic".
"It's not great that you are vulnerable to having that single point of supply into the city."