AUCKLAND- Air New Zealand (NZ) has announced that it will temporarily suspend its direct flights between Auckland (AKL) and Hobart (HBA), Australia, due to aircraft shortages arising from engine problems affecting some of its planes.
The airline disclosed that the service to Tasmania’s capital will be put on hold starting from April 5, 2024.
Air New Zealand Hobart
This decision has been necessitated by the need to reconfigure its schedule in response to grounded aircraft undergoing mandatory Pratt & Whitney engine maintenance as a result of the worldwide engine issues that were recently disclosed.
“The maintenance conducted on the engines is purely a precautionary measure, and there are no safety concerns for the aircraft,” stated Air New Zealand’s General Manager for Short Haul, Jeremy O’Brien.
O’Brien also noted that the Auckland-Hobart route had been performing satisfactorily, prompting an increase in services from two to three flights per week starting on October 31 to accommodate higher demand during the summer season.
He further mentioned, “While bookings continue to show strength during the summer, we had to make forward-looking plans to address potential changes in fleet availability due to the necessary maintenance.”
“Although we cannot currently provide a specific date for the resumption of the direct service, we recognize that there is increased demand during the warmer months. Therefore, we will continuously assess seat availability throughout 2024 and promptly inform our customers of any updates.”
“We extend our apologies to those customers whose travel plans have been impacted by this adjustment, and we appreciate their patience as our teams make efforts to arrange rebookings or issue refunds.”
“Passengers with affected flights will receive communication within the next week, presenting alternative options. In the event that the provided alternative is not suitable, they will have the option to request a full refund.”
Pratt and Whitney Engine Issues
The Auckland-Hobart route appears to be the first significant casualty resulting from the airline’s earlier warning of “significant” schedule changes for the upcoming year.
The underlying issue pertains to new engines produced by Pratt & Whitney, a US aircraft engine manufacturer.
In July, RTX Corp, the parent company of Pratt & Whitney, announced the need to recall over 1,200 engines out of the more than 3,000 engines built for twin-engined Airbus A320neo aircraft manufactured between 2015 and 2021.
This recall was initiated due to the discovery of a “rare condition” in the powdered metal used to produce specific engine components, which had the potential to lead to microscopic cracks.
Initially, the company planned to inspect 200 engines by mid-September. However, in September, RTX Corp disclosed that the issue would persist and necessitate the removal of 600 to 700 engines from planes worldwide for quality inspections over the course of the next three years.
13 Aircraft Affected
Air New Zealand’s fleet consists of 106 aircraft, and the impacted engines are installed on 13 of its narrowbody planes. These aircraft are primarily utilized for routes to Australia, the Pacific Islands, and some domestic flights.
Air New Zealand initiated its direct Auckland to Hobart flights to coincide with the launch of the trans-Tasman travel bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic, commencing in April 2021.
The route was temporarily halted when the travel bubble was suspended in July of the same year but resumed in July 2022.
This marked the first time the airline had operated flights connecting New Zealand and Tasmania since it ceased its Christchurch to Hobart service in 1998.
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