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Current as of 19/09/14 02:20PM NZST

Fyfe denies he was thrown 'hospital pass'

By Chris Daniels

Air New Zealand's new chief Rob Fyfe denies he was landed with a "hospital pass" from predecessor and Australia-bound Ralph Norris over plans to lay off up to 600 engineers.

He also said yesterday a possible joint venture with a global player in aircraft maintenance had been considered - but discounted because the airline's operation was too small.

Fyfe, as previous group general manager of airlines for Air NZ, said he was involved in looking at the future of heavy maintenance and had not been landed with a difficult job by outgoing chief executive Norris.

"No, not at all," he said. "If we look at the process, Ralph has been here during the deliberations, but I've been running the airline side of the business. I'm a customer of ANZES (Air NZ Engineering Services) - my airline is a customer. So I've been quite demanding of Craig Sinclair and his team."

Sinclair is the airline's group general manager of ventures, which includes responsibility for the engineering division.

Fyfe said he had sought assurances that ANZES was maintaining its aircraft at "world-class levels of competitive price and quality".

"I have been intimately involved in the process along with Craig and the rest of our executive team.

We are united as an executive team and as a board in our belief that we have exhausted ... the options we could identify before moving to this position we find ourselves in today."

Air NZ is hoping to save about $20 million a year by sending its big jets to larger overseas maintenance operations. Narrow body jets will still be maintained in Christchurch.

The airline's share price rose 3c yesterday to $1.10 after hitting a year low the previous day of $1.07.

Fyfe said the prospect of a joint venture with some of the big world maintenance companies had been considered but not pursued.

"The challenge with a joint venture is that it doesn't inherently solve the scale issue.

"Unless that partner can bring into the joint venture enormous amounts of work ... therein lies the challenge. If you had all that work then why would you be motivated to bring it all the way down here to New Zealand?"

Fyfe said he had not expected release of the engineering outsourcing plan to have come so close to taking over the helm. His elevation came less than a week before the lay-offs were disclosed at Air NZ's annual meeting on Wednesday.

 

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