Queenstown airport positions being cut

Commercial flights return to Queenstown on Thursday morning. Photo: ODT files. Photo: ODT files
Commercial flights return to Queenstown on Thursday morning. Photo: ODT files. Photo: ODT files
Jobs have been lost at Queenstown and Wanaka airports, and more could go as Queenstown Airport Corporation plans for a future with fewer visitors to the towns.

All contracted and temporary staff have been let go, while remaining staff have taken pay cuts of between 5-20%.

A consultation began this week to determine the future of the remaining jobs. It will report back at the end of June.

Commercial flights return to Queenstown tomorrow morning, when an Air New Zealand flight is scheduled from Christchurch.

The airline also plans a return jet service on Saturday from Auckland, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced domestic travel would be permitted under Alert Level 2.

Social distancing would be required on aircraft and travel for conferences or large gatherings was forbidden.

An Air New Zealand spokesman said an Alert Level 2 schedule was "being progressively rolled out, with the majority of flying to start on Monday’’.

Almost 2.5 million passengers passed through Queenstown Airport in the year ending June 2019.

But, with no international flights for the foreseeable future and reduced domestic travel, chief executive Colin Keel said he expected "only a fraction" of the pre-Covid-19 traffic over the next 12 to 18 months.

"We have made the difficult decision to propose a restructure of our organisation.

"Consultation with our team will begin this week and be completed by the end of June."

"The Southern Lakes region has been significantly impacted by Covid-19 and bringing back domestic air travel to the area is a welcome step forward to recovery.’’

Queenstown Airport Corporation has received $478,012.80 so far in government wage subsidy for 68 employees.

The corporation said it would not reveal how many jobs had been lost to date, until the current consultation concluded.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said job losses were "heartbreaking" but he knew Mr Keel was trying to "save as many jobs as possible".

"The reality of the situation is we have a Government who have not given businesses in Queenstown an idea of a timeframe for opening the border to Australia."

Mr Walker said the Australian market was critical to the resort and although Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had suggested a transtasman bubble would be in place by July, the New Zealand Government had given no such date.

Queenstown Airport Corporation said it would not give a figure for the number of jobs under threat or provide further comment. The focus was on "supporting our people".

Any jobs affected would be part of the operations and corporate team, not customs, security or retail, which are run by separate agencies.

At Dunedin International Airport Ltd staff were being paid 80% of their pre-lockdown wages and the company said it was working on what "post-lockdown’’ would look like.

General manager of business development Megan Crawford would not say if the company was considering redundancies and said until staff were aware of any proposed changes, she would not comment further.

Invercargill Airport could not be reached for comment.

*Article updated at 11am due to incorrect information supplied to the Otago Daily Times by Queenstown Airport Corporation



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