EXCLUSIVE Air New Zealand are set to stop their direct flights between Hobart and Auckland next year due to ‘scheduling issues’ arising from an ongoing “engine maintenance problem”.
The airline has revealed that a review of future schedules, necessary to accommodate grounded aircraft undergoing engine maintenance, has forced them to make the “difficult decision” to temporarily suspend all direct services to and from Hobart from April 5, 2024.
“A rare condition identified by Pratt and Whitney in its 1100 engines, which power the aircraft scheduled to operate our Hobart service, means we are required to ground several aircraft in the short to medium term,” Air New Zealand said.
“There is no safety concern for aircraft and early engine maintenance is being conducted as a precautionary measure.”
The route is Tasmania’s only international connection and is popular with travellers visiting New Zealand, as well as those connecting onto the Pacific Islands and USA.
Air New Zealand General Manager Short Haul Jeremy O’Brien says the route has been performing well, particularly over the upcoming summer months, however, logistical constraints meant the airline had to make the tough decision to adjust schedules.
“Tasmania is a popular destination for Kiwis and to accommodate additional summer travel, we increased services from two to three flights per week from 31 October,” O’Brien said.
“Bookings remain strong over summer, however, looking forward, we had to plan for changes to the availability of our fleet due to required maintenance.”
“A small number of customers are currently booked to travel from April and will have the option to rebook on a stop over service or opt for a full refund of their fare.”
He assured customers that they “do not need to do anything right now”, as airline staff and travel agents will be in direct contact shortly.
“While we’re not in a position to commit to a date to return to the direct service, we know demand for the services is higher over the warmer months and will be reviewing the availability of seats on our network throughout 2024 to update customers as soon as we can,” O’Brien said.
“We apologise to customers who have had their travel plans adjusted as a result of this change and thank them for their patience as our teams work to rebook or refund them.”
Tasmanian and Shadow Tourism Minister Rebecca White said the loss of the service is “more bad news for the state”.
“It took more than 20 years to resume direct flights between Tasmania and New Zealand and now we are learning that less than three years later, these flights will stop, with no guarantee when they might resume again,” White said.
“This is a blow to Tasmania’s economy, our tourism industry and the community.”
She called on the state government to “explain what it knew and when about this latest suspension, and what it plans to do about it”.
“The tourism industry is crucial to Tasmania’s economy. As the Premier and Tourism Minister, Jeremy Rockliff has a responsibility to do everything he can to ensure these flights can continue, support our tourism industry and workers and grow our economy, instead of running it into the ground.”
Premier Jeremy Rockliff said he was ‘disappointed’ at the decision, but hopes to “work in partnership with Air New Zealand to get those flights back up and running”.