U.S. Markets closed

Air New Zealand cancels 100 Christmas flights because of Rolls-Royce engine problems

Simon Calder
Ground control: Air New Zealand is being forced to cancel dozens of flights using the Boeing 787-9: Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has grounded almost 100 flights over Christmas and New Year, the height of the southern hemisphere season, because of continuing problems with some Rolls-Royce engines fitted to its Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

Ten of the engines are due to be inspected and taken abroad to be serviced by Rolls-Royce engineers.

Air New Zealand’s senior fleet manager 787, Captain Dave Wilson, said: “We have 14 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft in our fleet and four spare engines to power these.

“However, all these spare engines are with Rolls Royce offshore either undergoing service or waiting for a service slot.”

The carrier has suspended its Christchurch-Perth service, and halved frequency on its Auckland-Perth link between 10 December and 5 January.

Twenty other flights, mostly between Auckland and Sydney, have also been grounded.

The short-notice cancellations are expected to affect 14,000 passengers.

Air New Zealand said: “The airline will start processing changes to customers’ bookings this week and then directly contact customers affected by these changes with new travel information.”

It was the launch airline for the Boeing 787-9 in 2014.

Services between Heathrow and Auckland via Los Angeles are operated by Boeing 777s, and are unaffected – though the airline has announced the closure of the route from October 2020.

Two years ago, Air New Zealand 787s experienced two near-identical inflight incidents on successive days involving turbine blades failures.

Passengers on flights from Auckland to Buenos Aires and Tokyo reported hearing “clunking” and feeling severe vibrations.

As it became clear that turbine blades were wearing out faster than expected, more than 200 planes were grounded worldwide.

British Airways, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic have all been significantly affected. BA has reduced the frequency of its Heathrow-Miami service while it shuffles the fleet to cover for missing 787s, while Norwegian has been chartering in aircraft from other airlines, such as Wamos.

Earlier this month Rolls-Royce admitted it was taking much longer than expected to produce an “improved high pressure turbine blade” for the engines.

The firm said it was “resetting financial and operational expectations” for solving the problem – which is now not expected to be completed until 2023.

Rolls-Royce expects the failure to cost it £2.4bn, with much of the cash going to airlines who have had to charter in extra capacity or cancel flights.

The Rolls-Royce chief executive, Warren East, said: “We deeply regret the ongoing disruption caused to customers.”

Read more

How to get the best Black Friday savings in the sales this year