Air New Zealand has candidly warned customers flying over Christmas to expect “lots of queues” as it faces its busiest holiday season post-COVID.
The airline said it would welcome 2.8 million customers this summer, with more than 55,000 customers alone on 23 December, up from 31,000 last year when international borders were closed.
The Kiwi flag carrier’s statement follows similar warnings from Brisbane and Melbourne airports and after Qantas revealed it would substantially increase capacity as it edges back to 2019 performance.
Aviation globally saw some of the worst delays and cancellations in history in 2022, as airlines and airports battled with surging short-haul demand coupled with staff shortages and sickness absences.
Since then, the industry has recruited thousands of extra staff and cut flights to improve the passenger experience. Nonetheless, the Christmas period will pose a major challenge for the whole industry.
Air New Zealand chief customer officer Leanne Geraghty said, “While it’s great to have more people travelling this year, it does come with some challenges. Flights will be packed, with lots of queues and extra baggage.
“As we prepare for a bumper summer, we’re pulling out all the stops to take the friction out – with new aircraft, hiring 2200 more people, 300 airport volunteers and contingency plans in place for disrupts.
“Airports, security screening, and check-in areas are going to be much busier than usual. We’re asking customers to allow additional time to get to, and through the airport, they are travelling from and to be as patient as possible as our staff, who are working to get everyone to their holiday destination.”
Air New Zealand said Auckland to Christchurch would be the busiest route this Christmas, while Queenstown would be the busiest regional port, with more than 6,000 people passing through on 23 December.
Australian Aviation reported last week how Air New Zealand followed Qantas in significantly upgrading its half-year profit guidance by what could be an extra NZ $95 million.
It also admitted that “constrained” capacity was a factor behind high-ticket prices, but said it was focused on eventually adding more seats for sale to “alleviate this pressure”.
Air New Zealand’s statement to the ASX follows Qantas upgrading its half-year profit forecast by an extra $150 million. Rex and Virgin have similarly posted hugely positive financial news.