Air New Zealand says fuel crisis impact is stabilising

Air New Zealand believes the worst of the Auckland fuel crisis that led to more than 40 of its flights being cancelled is behind it.

Fuel restrictions caused by the shutdown of the sole pipeline supplying Auckland International Airport with aviation fuel has prompted a number of airlines — including Qantas, Jetstar and Emirates — to cancel or reroute flights.

Initial reports suggested the pipeline had been damaged by a digger but locals in the Ruakaka area containing the leak are disputing the claim.

Refining New Zealand staff found the problem after noticing a drop in pressure on the 168-km pipeline from an oil refinery at Marsden Point in Northland to tanks in Auckland.

AirNZ on Tuesday took the unusual step of restricting ticket sales but the Kiwi carrier said Wednesday that its domestic network was  operating largely as normal.

It said the situation was stabilising as it managed the impact of Refining New Zealand’s temporary shut-down of its pipeline to Auckland.

“Air New Zealand has implemented a range of measures since Sunday in response to the restriction in fuel supply,’’ it said in an update. “It now believes the need for further schedule disruptions will ease and has therefore moved to relax restrictions on fare sales.”

One remaining victim of the fuel shortage was Thursday’s Auckland-Houston service, the cancellation of which brought the total number of AirNZ services axed since Sunday to 41.

Passengers due to travel on the cancelled NZ28 and NZ29 September 21 services to or from Houston would be accommodated on alternative services, the airline said as it worked through the process of notifying customers.

Air New Zealand has also lifted its restriction on long-haul ticket sales for services over the coming days, with some restrictions remaining on selected trans-Tasman and Pacific Island services.

“The airline is continuing to implement a range of measures to reduce fuel uplift in Auckland,’’ it said “Today this will include operating an empty Boeing 787-9 to Wellington to be fueled in preparation for this evening’s flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.”

There was also good news for investors: the airline does not believe the fuel supply issue will have a material issue on its 2018-19 financial results.

It said it remained  in “close dialogue” with key stakeholders including the New Zealand government, its agencies and fuel companies.

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