Pero's Erebus flight on hold

Christchurch businessman Mike Pero's plans for a trip to Antarctic for friends and family of Erebus victims are on hold.

Mr Pero said yesterday he would charter a Boeing 747 in January for 307 people who wished to travel to Antarctica to pay their respects to the victims of New Zealand's worst air disaster.

Air NZ and families of victims criticised the idea, with the airline calling it "opportunistic" and timed to cash in on the 30th anniversary of the tragedy in which 257 passengers and crew died.

Late today Mr Pero said issues with Qantas crewing the flight had postponed the trip.

"So that means this stage the best thing I believe that everyone should do is just let the dust settle and address this maybe next week," he told Radio New Zealand.

"If ... the supplier of the aircraft just don't want to be involved in this matter, it's obviously turned into a can of worms."

Mr Pero said he hoped to form common ground with Air NZ and the families, then readdress the plan.

It was always his intention to respect the families' wishes, he said.

There was only ever one flight planned with the priority to fill it with family members.

He felt he had been persecuted.

"I don't want to do this any more. I was just out there with the best intentions and now it's turned right round.

"All I was trying to do was facilitate what I believed were the wishes of the families.

"I didn't want all this at all."

Air NZ initially said it was "deeply disturbed" by Mr Pero's lack of consultation with friends and family of Erebus victims.

More than 40 families had written to the airline expressing concern over the timing of the charter announcement, international airline group general manager Ed Sims said.

The airline met Mr Pero today to discuss the flight. It said it was concerned about the timing of Mr Pero's announcement and lack of consultation with the families.

"Air New Zealand has offered to work with Mr Pero to facilitate contact with the families on its Erebus database, so he can better understand their wishes, preferences and perspectives before determining how to proceed," it said.

Air NZ is taking a few family members on a memorial flight to Antarctica this Saturday on board a United States Air Force C-17 cargo plane.

Many of the victims' families were upset when the airline revealed its plans, as only five representatives were included, with names drawn from a ballot.

Susan O'Rourke, from Blenheim, lost her mother in the crash and said Mr Pero's flight was in "poor taste" and unaffordable for many.

"As an immediate family member of a victim of the disaster, I feel he is just capitalising on the situation of the 30th anniversary," she told The New Zealand Herald.

Ms O'Rourke said the ticket price of $1400 to $8600 was prohibitive for many families.

"$1400 - for a family, that's a lot of money. Especially when there's no guarantee they will go over Erebus."

Mr Pero has dismissed claims his plans were a PR stunt or intended for personal gain, offering to pay any net proceeds to Air NZ's own charity, Koru Care.


 

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