30 November 2009
Air New Zealand will be working with the Government and Antarctica New Zealand over the next month to explore opportunities for more representatives of families lost in the Erebus tragedy to visit the accident scene.
General Manager Airline Operations and Safety Captain David Morgan says the visit by six family representatives has clearly demonstrated that the opportunity to be in Antarctica can provide families of the 257 people lost on flight TE 901 with a significant step in the healing and grieving process.
Captain Morgan, who has spent the past three days in Antarctica with the family representatives, says Air New Zealand will be in talks with the Government when Prime Minister John Key returns from overseas.
"The clear message we have had from the families we have been in discussion with over the past few months is that the opportunity to set foot in Antarctica and to see Mt Erebus, and visit it if the weather permits, is where Air New Zealand and the Government need to be focusing their energy."
Captain Morgan says that the final decision on whether there are more trips for family representatives ultimately rests with the Government and Antarctica New Zealand as the owners of the resources required.
"If their view is that further trips are not practical, we will turn our attention to discussing with Government the opportunity for family representatives to fly over Antarctica. Just like this first trip for six family representatives, it remains our firm view that those who lost loved ones should not have to pay to see the environment that had such an impact on their lives."
Captain Morgan says given Air New Zealand no longer has the experience flying to Antarctica, an option that maybe open to the Government is the Royal New Zealand Air Force's Boeing 757s.