Greg Foran, CEO, Air New Zealand
This year will forever be remembered for the pace and rate of change inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the enormous sacrifice of those in impacted industries such as ours. It has felt like we were first in and will likely be last out.
We suspended our flights to Shanghai on 3 February, the same day I started as CEO of Air New Zealand. What followed surprised us all with both the depth of the crisis and the duration. During the Level 4 lockdown, we operated 1% of our pre-COVID flights and recovery has certainly been far from predictable.
We’ve had to be in survival mode for a long time now, flexing our operations to constant change, pivoting towards being a domestic and international cargo airline for the time being, managing our cash burn carefully, and saying a heart-breaking farewell to over 4000 Air New Zealanders.
I know our pilot community has felt many of the difficult impacts of the crisis. Around 300 Air New Zealand pilots have left the business either through redundancy, furlough or ending their careers early. Many of those who remain have had their careers put on hold, or even gone backwards with down training. Our turboprop pilots have busy rosters with multiple last-minute schedule changes. Operating conditions and health requirements are vastly different, particularly for our international jet pilots, and the impact of all of this on pilots and their families has been significant.
While uncertainty has been rife, I am incredibly grateful to our pilots for how they have responded to the situation we are in. Whenever I fly, I always value conversations we have in the cockpit and the perspective they add. I know many people in the community have little idea of
The strategic partnership between us was formed and fostered long before my time at the airline; however, when it has mattered most, it has stood true.
the sacrifices they have made and continue to make.
I’m also grateful for the strong relationship with ALPA and the collaborative approach that has been evident in responding to this crisis. The strategic partnership between us was formed and fostered long before my time at the airline; however, when it has mattered most, it has stood true.
Working in this way shows how we have confronted the reality we face together but not lost sight of optimism for the future. To me, it brings to mind the Stockdale Paradox. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great put forward this concept based on the experiences of James Stockdale, former vicepresidential candidate, who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive as a prisoner of war. Finding that healthy balance of reality and optimism is critical in a crisis. Too much either way and you can lose sight of the objective. We are all trying to find that equilibrium but be assured that in time we will be back up and operating, albeit in a new abnormal.
While it feels like a lifetime since we were carrying 46,000 customers a day across 500 flights, I can still see a light at the end of the tunnel. We had a strong balance sheet at the outset and secured additional liquidity early, reduced the cost base quickly, adapted and flexed our operations, and have set our sights on a strategy for recovery which will most likely include a new capital raise at some point. We have probably the strongest domestic business in aviation at the moment and have built up our vital international cargo operation.
There are likely to be more obstacles to overcome, with many of these outside of our control, but I am confident we will face into the difficulties of these together to come out the other side a stronger airline that we can all be proud of. Thank you for all you are doing for Air New Zealand and our industry
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