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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter.

New Zealand News


A week out from the General Election many international and domestic flights were grounded due to fuel supply issues caused by a rupture of the fuel pipeline from the Marsden Point Refinery.

At the time of writing thousands of air passengers faced a third day of cancelled flights, while a number of petrol stations in the Auckland region ran out of 95 Octane petrol and diesel. 

Meanwhile, authorities were working on a contingency plan to get jet fuel transported around the city after being shipped down from Marsden Pt. Air New Zealand said in an email to customers that it was "extremely disappointed" at the fuel shortage.

The email said that: "Unfortunately Air New Zealand is experiencing disruption to services as a result of this issue including a number of flight cancellations as we work to consolidate passenger loads and minimise fuel usage.”

Flights from Auckland Airport to Melbourne and Sydney were affected, as well as long-haul flights to and from Asia and North America were having to refuel at Pacific or Australian airports to alleviate pressure on fuel supplies in Auckland.

Jetstar, Virgin, Thai and Singapore Airlines flights were also affected. 

The New Zealand Herald reported that the pipeline leak was caused by a digger 8km south of the Marsden Pt refinery in Northland, allegedly looking for Kauri logs. In the week up to the election, the shortage was expected to affect about 2000 travellers a day as jet fuel was rationed. It was estimated 80,000 litres of fuel had been leaked and prompt action by local authorities sought to limit any environmental damage.

It was also reported that Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins has enlisted the help of the Defence Force to free industry resources by sending the naval tanker HMNZS Endeavour to move diesel fuel from Marsden Pt to other parts of the country.

The Defence Force also provided 20 tanker drivers to help local operators manage their increased workload, cancelling a major exercise with Singapore to preserve fuel. It also deferred non-essential training and was investigating refuelling smaller commuter aircraft at Whenuapai Air Force Base, the New Zealand Herald reported. 

Travel boom has airlines flying high

The New Zealand Herald’s investment columnist Brian Gaynor recently wrote that airlines are ‘on a roll’, with long-term critics of the industry, including Warren Buffet, now investing in the sector.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently reported that global passenger traffic grew by 7.9 per cent in the first half of this year, on a revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) basis, compared with the same period last year. This was the highest January-June growth rate since 2005.

The strong start to the year has been driven by a positive global economic backdrop and lower airfares.

The Asia-Pacific region, which has a 32.8 per cent share of global passenger traffic, had a January-June 2017 growth rate of 10.6 per cent, the highest of any region. The two major Australasian carriers, Air New Zealand and Qantas, have benefited from the travel boom, albeit that they are operating in a competitive environment.

Air New Zealand reported a net profit after tax of $382 million for the year to June 30, 2017. This was 17.5 per cent below the $463m for the 2016 year, an exceptionally good year.

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Martin Jetpack suspended from share trading

Stuff’s Chris Hutching recently reported that shares in Martin Jetpack have been suspended from trading on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Chief executive James West said the company had been unable to finalise its 2017 annual accounts until it struck agreement with its main shareholder and funder Kuang-Chi based in Hong Kong.

The Jetpack had obtained a Civil Aviation Authority conditional certificate of airworthiness and flight footage would soon be on the website.

But the engine still required about three more years of development as well as funding.

In its cash report for the end of June 2017, Martin Jetpack said it had working capital until October.

Kuang said it didn’t want to provide more money until it knew more details about the Jetpack’s commercial viability.


Resurfacing taxiway at Wellington Airport

Wellington Airport’s taxiway is to undergo a $25 million face lift over spring and summer 2017-2018, the Wellington International Airport Limited (WIAL) company recently reported. 

The taxiway, the paved area connecting the terminal and the runway, has reached the end of its useful life and must be resurfaced. The last overlay was done in 2002.

Wellington Airport General Manager of Infrastructure John Howarth said the works will include asphalt cutting, breaking, excavation, and pavement construction which will generate some noise.

“As the taxiway is operational during the day, most of the work will take place at night as between 9.30pm and 6.00am and will be done under strict controls to minimise noise and disruption.”

The airport will also be carrying out further improvements to the taxiway including widening the pavement, realigning the centreline that pilots use when arriving and departing, and installing a new resilient lighting system he said.

The project was expected to take around seven months to complete, although this is subject to a range of factors such as weather conditions. The works will be generally be undertaken sequentially, from one end of the runway to the other, in a series of zones starting at the northern end.


United to resume Auckland to San Francisco service

 Lorna Thornber reported that United Airlines will use a larger aircraft for its seasonal non-stop service between Auckland and San Francisco, which resumes on October 31.

The US airline launched the service last July, returning to New Zealand after a 13-year absence.

The 787 Dreamliner used last season will be replaced by a Boeing 777-300ER, its newest aircraft type.

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Dunedin economy boosted by extra flights

Otago Daily Times’ Margot Taylor reported that Dunedin businesses are gearing up for an influx of Chinese visitors as an airline announces daily flights from China to the South, a move worth $20 million to the southern economy.

From December 2 until February 26 next year, China Southern Airlines will bring thousands of tourists to Dunedin with daily flights from Guangzhou to Christchurch.

At present the airline operates three flights a week from Guangzhou to Christchurch. In October it will increase to one flight every weekday, becoming one every day from December.

Christchurch Airport chief aeronautical and commercial officer Justin Watson said the service would bring about 40,000 visitors to the South.

More than half of the visitors would stay overnight in Dunedin, and 90% would stay overnight in Queenstown, previous data suggested.

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Jetstar schedule sees cut to early morning regional flight

The New Zealand Herald Business Writer Holly Ryan reported that regional travellers may have to alter their plans thanks to a change in Jetstar flight schedules that cut a number of early flights from the regions.

Jetstar recently published its new regional schedule, which starts on October 29.

The airline currently operates a seasonal schedule of 104 return services a week across its five regional routes.

This will increase to between 107 and 114 with the new schedule, but with several of its early morning services cut.

This time last year Jetstar operated 122 return flights a week on the regional routes.

That was reduced in July this year to the current seasonal schedule of 104 return flights.

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Supreme Court rejects Cathay unit’s retirement age of 55

The New Zealand Herald published a Business Desk story that reported that the Supreme Court has backed two Auckland-based Cathay Pacific pilots who claimed local law meant they couldn't be forced to retire at 55.

Chief Justice Sian Elias, and justices William Young, Susan Glazebrook, Mark O'Regan and Ellen France today sided with pilots David Brown and Glen Sycamore, ruling that Cathay unit New Zealand Basing Ltd (NZBL) couldn't discriminate against the pair on the grounds of age. That overturns a decision in the Court of Appeal which accepted the company's argument that the agreement was governed by Hong Kong law which New Zealand legislation didn't override.

While the bench came to the same conclusion, the Chief Justice and Justices France and O'Regan took the view that pilots weren't captured by any exceptions in the Human Rights Act and would fall within the Employment Relations Act. It would be "very odd" for the law to "allow discrimination in the employment context in relation to persons in the appellants' position, solely on the basis of the parties' choice of law," they said.

Justices Young and Glazebrook also ruled in favour of the pilots, finding the right not to be discriminated against because of age wasn't limited to employment agreements governed by New Zealand law, and comparing it to prohibitions against other forms of discrimination such as sexism or racism.

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Underpaid young pilots working in poor conditions

Radio New Zealand Employment Reporter Michael Cropp recently interviewed NZALPA Advocate Tom Buckley on the issues effecting the careers of young pilots.

Cropp reported that those who have just finished flight school - often with about $100,000 in student loans - need to gain experience to get well-paid jobs with airlines.

Air Line Pilots' Association advocate Tom Buckley said those pilots were so desperate to work they would perform safety-critical tasks such as flight planning and checking the weather for free.

"We've got reports of pilots saying their colleagues are sleeping in cars because they can't afford to pay rent, we've got examples of people reporting to us they're being paid as little as $5 an hour.

"Quite often we hear pilots calculating the amount they get paid against the amount they work, and coming back to us saying 'I think I'm paid less than the minimum wage'," he said.

The pilots were afraid to complain in case it harmed their future career, Mr Buckley said.

Employers were using zero-hour contracts, piecemeal pay or "independent" contracts to pay the pilots less than the minimum wage, he said.

The union was still trying to find out how widespread the problem was, he said.

Aviation New Zealand said it would remind its members not to flout minimum standards, such as rest breaks or minimum wage, when offering young pilots work.

Chief executive John Nicholson said pilots should not have to build their hours at the expense of poor working conditions.

But he said he was not aware of any pilots being treated that way.

"We would remind [our members] that things like zero hour contracts are not legal, that they must be paying the minimum wage, and we would expect them as responsible operators to be looking after the welfare of their employees," he said.

Flight schools, which often employed junior pilots as instructors, were now offering fixed-term contracts with better wages, Mr Nicholson said.

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