Air New Zealand continues to fly as others remain on the
ground. Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
Air New Zealand is flying high with customers and
sharebrokers as it continues to fly its passengers while Qantas
and other airlines keep their planes grounded.
Air NZ general manager airline operations and safety and
chief pilot David Morgan said the airline had operated about
1000 flights and carried more than 50,000 passengers since a
volcanic ash cloud arrived in New Zealand airspace on Sunday.
The ash cloud was caused by an eruption in Chile more than a
"The authorities are providing excellent information about
the ash, which is at high altitude and very predictable in
its movement," the chief pilot said.
By adjusting cruising altitudes of its aircraft, Air NZ was
able to continue to safely deliver customers to their
"Lower cruising altitudes mean we need to burn around 10%
more fuel than normal but we don't believe that's a reason to
stop flying, when there are perfectly safe flight paths
available below the level of ash," he said.
Forsyth Barr broker Peter Young said the airline would
certainly have scored "some Brownie points" with its decision
to continue flying.
There was an element of discretion when making the decision
to fly and that policy clearly varied company by company. It
was not a civil aviation decision.
"There would be zero tolerance when it comes to the safety of
their passengers and staff and Air NZ has assessed that it is
all right to fly at a lower altitude on domestic and
Qantas and Jetstar airlines had assessed the risk to be too
great so, at the expense of the public, they had decided not
to fly, he said.
That decision was not sitting well with many stranded
passengers, especially when they saw Air NZ planes taking
"It is not a good look but it is entirely their decision and
they have stuck with it," Mr Young said.
Craigs Investment Partners broker Chris Timms most people
were saying "well done" to Air NZ.
"They are in a financial position to allow them to do that
and this is an opportunity to generate a fair amount of
goodwill. This is why it is good to have a parochial
A former Labour government had stepped in to buy Air New
Zealand when it was in danger of being sold to overseas-based
airlines, he said.
It was debatable what would have happened if the national
carrier had been sold, given the current circumstances, Mr
Air NZ spokeswoman Marie Hosking said Air NZ flights were
flying below the ash cloud which had a ceiling of 8229m. The
Civil Authority has raised the safe flying level from 6100m
Air NZ loadings were high but Ms Hosking said she could not
say if that was due to other airlines being grounded.
NZPA reported that in Australia, more than 60,000 passengers
had been stranded by the ash cloud.
Qantas said it could take 24 hours to 48 hours to clear just
the Melbourne backlog.