Downgrade for Air NZ pilots

An eight per cent cut in long haul flights has forced Air New Zealand to demote more than 30 senior pilots to smaller aircraft and reduced pay.

The airline has also made long-haul cabin crew redundant, reduced hours for corporate staff, frozen executive pay and not replaced non-safety sensitive roles.

A total of 32 pilots currently flying 747s, 777s and 767s on long-haul routes will fly smaller aircraft on domestic routes and have their pay and rank lowered. The airline has about 850 jet pilots, of whom about half fly long-haul routes, a national Sunday newspaper reported today.

Pilots are also being offered alternative roles within the company, leave without pay, flexible flying arrangements and enhanced retirement packages. According to a government career advice website, pilots who fly internationally can earn up to $250,000.

Company spokeswoman Tracey Palmer said the cutbacks were essential following the eight per cent cut in long haul flights due to the world economic downturn. Among the long-haul services Air New Zealand cut last year were flights to Japan and Hong Kong from New Zealand.

"We have not made any pilots redundant and remain committed to maintaining a workforce of highly skilled and trained professionals to ensure the airline is quickly able to adapt to changing market conditions," she said.

The union supports the company's initiatives, according to Tim Robinson, head of the Air New Zealand pilots' council . He said despite being disappointed with down-training, pilots thought it was preferable to being made redundant.

Mr Robinson said the airline also enquired on behalf of pilots about jobs with other airlines, but those opportunities were drying up.

Rick Mirkin, executive director of the Airline Pilots Association, said Pacific Blue and Jet Connect, which also had pilots based in New Zealand, had not made cutbacks, although they flew mainly domestic and regional routes.

- NZPA

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