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Changes to air traffic services reflect altered industry

Changes to air traffic services reflect profoundly altered industry

Passenger safety and airline operations will not be affected by Airways’ decision to withdraw air traffic services at seven New Zealand airports, says Airways CEO Graeme Sumner.

Airways NZ today confirmed it will withdraw services from seven airports while it works with the industry on a cross-sector plan to deliver a shared vision for regional aviation, modernise aviation services and get back to growth in the post-pandemic environment.

Airways will collaborate with a working party that includes the affected airports, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a general aviation (GA) representative and Air New Zealand to plan a safe and orderly transition. The working group will identify when the current services will be withdrawn from each airport and what type of service, if any they may be replaced with. This process is expected to take around six months.

As each airport completes its process Airways will withdraw the air traffic control services from its towers at Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill airports. The company will also cease providing airfield flight information services at Kapiti Coast Airport and Milford Sound Piopiotahi Aerodrome.

Mr Sumner said the dramatic collapse in flight numbers prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic had hastened the need to make changes to how air navigation services were delivered to ensure their long-term viability.

“Over the past month Airways has worked alongside our staff and their union, the airports concerned and Air New Zealand to determine how we can best respond to the current crisis while also ensuring we are able to help drive the aviation sector’s recovery and future growth,” Mr Sumner said.

“We extended the timeframe for consulting with and gathering feedback from our people. Airways put constructive and workable proposals to the union’s leadership which would have guaranteed their members’ employment for 12 months in exchange for a 25% pay reduction. It is unfortunate that our people were not given the opportunity to vote on this proposal – an action that is in stark contrast to compromises made by their pilot colleagues,” he said.

The changes announced today could mean the loss of up to 38 positions with these staff anticipated to leave over the next three to six months. Timings for any redundancies will be confirmed as part of the collaborative process with the airports and CAA. Airways will also work with staff on any redeployment opportunities.

“Today’s decision is a hard one and upsetting for affected workers and their families. Supporting and respecting our workmates is central to who Airways is as a company. Telling people who have served us and our industry so well that the services they provide are no longer viable is very difficult,” Mr Sumner said.

“But the disruption caused by the pandemic is unprecedented. Airways must address the immediate challenges of the pandemic-induced crisis, and to help put the industry on a more sustainable footing.

“Maintaining our previous services would have imposed an unjustifiable and unsustainable cost on airline operators without any corresponding benefits in passenger safety or regional connectivity.”

Mr Sumner said Air New Zealand had assured his company the changes would not affect the airline’s ability to provide safe passenger and freight services to the cities and regions concerned. He had been heartened by the constructive response of most airport owners and management, and many other stakeholders, to Airways’ decision.

“Our industry partners have been positive about future possibilities in our sector, which was already grappling with reducing traffic volumes and technological advancements before the pandemic hit us.”

Mr Sumner said the cross-sector working group, involving airports, CAA, and Air New Zealand, was a way of ensuring continued collaboration as the industry worked towards recovery.

“Technological and other developments are enabling alternatives to controlled airspace that are safe, fit-for purpose and commercially viable,” said Mr Sumner

“As our industry and our overall economy recovers and rebuilds, we will continue to work with our aviation colleagues to deliver flexible, efficient and affordable services, that preserve safety and deliver sustainable connectivity in a sector that has been fundamentally reshaped by the pandemic.”


A comprehensive set of FAQs has been developed in relation to this decision and can be found here.

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