About 14,000 Air New Zealand customers will be affected by international schedule changes forced upon the airline by problems with a newer version of the Rolls-Royce engines on its Boeing 787-9s.
The most substantive of the changes announced today is the suspension of its twice-weekly seasonal Christchurch-Perth service, resulting in the cancellation of 62 flights.
Also canceled: AirNZ’s second daily Auckland-Perth service from December 10 2019 until January 5 2020 as well as a limited number of flights to Tonga and Sydney.
Rolls-Royce is requiring operators of its Trent 1000 TEN model engines to carry out more frequent maintenance due to an issue with the engine’s high-pressure turbine blades.
The problem is the engine manufacturer does not have any replacement engines available during the maintenance work and has advised Air New Zealand of a significant wait for repair services.
Air New Zealand senior fleet manager 787 Captain Dave Wilson said the airline had been performing regular precautionary checks on its TEN engines since April and has been doing all it can to fast-track required maintenance from Rolls-Royce.
“Based on the maintenance needs of our engines, we expect some will need to be inspected in December and January and then serviced by Rolls-Royce offshore and unfortunately Rolls-Royce has no capacity to alleviate this pressure,’’ he 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 issue with the TEN engines comes after Air New Zealand and other airlines globally have grappled with problems on earlier models of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines for more than two years.
The Kiwi carrier has been leasing aircraft to deal with the issues and has one widebody aircraft on lease from EVA Air in its fleet.
The Air New Zealand cancelations also come as Emirates’ president Tim Clark recently lashed out at manufacturers delivering faulty products to airlines.
The Kiwi carrier said it had 10 Trent 1000 TEN engines fitted to its 787-9 fleet and had been working to minimize disruption.
Schedule changes were now unavoidable, it said, and further changes may also be required as the airline goes through engine checks.
It said it would start processing changes to customers’ bookings this week and then directly contact customers affected by these changes with new travel information.
Customers booked via a travel agent (including online travel agents) will be contacted by their booking agent and information on changes would be published on the Travel Alerts section of the Air New Zealand website.
Air New Zealand Senior Manager customer care and communications Doug Grant said the airline had not expected to still be facing issues with its Rolls-Royce engines but it was well-placed to minimize the impact on customers.
“Going into the holiday season we’re acutely aware how important travel is to our customers, and our schedule changes are designed to keep cancellations to a minimum,’’ he said.
There high-pressure turbine blade issue does not affect the airline’s 22 Trent 1000 Package C model engines on other 787-9s.