Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Kiwis fly as Skippy flops, trips and stumbles

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If there's an ash cloud in the sky, then Skippy won't fly. Photo / Sarah Ivey
If there's an ash cloud in the sky, then Skippy won't fly. Photo / Sarah Ivey

When Ansett was flying New Zealand skies, Queenstown locals had a saying: if there's clouds in the sky, then Skippy won't fly. Any time the weather was inclement, Ansett was forced to cancel flights because it didn't have the same navigational gear as Air New Zealand's craft.

Now the Aussies are at it again. Jetstar and Qantas have cancelled flights around New Zealand and across the Tasman because of safety concerns in the wake of the Chilean volcano eruptions.

For most of the week though, Air New Zealand's pilots consulted the experts, sucked in air through their teeth and decided that it WAS safe to fly - provided they fly at a lower altitude, below the ash cloud. They have been able, in the main, to transport their passengers safely to and from their destinations.

People who booked on Jetstar and Qantas have been left frustrated and grounded in the airline terminals. I'm not surprised at Jetstar's refusal to fly.

Seriously, who would fly Jetstar unless you absolutely had to? But the decision by Qantas to ground its aircraft seems crazy.

It's supposed to be a premium, top-of-the-range airline. It certainly didn't behave like one this week, as it parked its planes at the airports and disrupted the travel plans of thousands.

These things happen - I still remember with utter joy being stranded in Paris last year when the Icelandic volcano first introduced the world to ash-cloud disruption.

But when other aircraft are flying and you're not, it's a massive PR fail - no matter how you try to dress up the cancellations with a "safety first" message.

- Herald on Sunday

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