Welcome to my Christmas-New Year "hangovers".
These are two issues that I have been writing about which will not be resolved without some leadership from politicians and business alike in 2021.
First up, Will the punters still prefer to "Fly Air NZ" when international travel resumes?
Loyalty to an airline covers a complicated matrix of issues.
I flew Qantas domestically via Ansett NZ - and on international routes – for some years, only switching to Air New Zealand when Qantas NZ stopped services in April 2001.
The beauty of commuting from Wellington to Auckland via Qantas/Ansett NZ was not only membership of the Golden Wing club (Koru Club did not exist) but also getting to sit in business class at the front of the Boeing 767s that used to ply the domestic route on the very early am flight after getting into the capital the prior night from Australia. The whisper jets came later.
While Air NZ was operating out of an old hangar, the Qantas-led operation provided first-class (and plated) service. There were the hilarious ads: a businessman who went on board with his wife's keys was assured by the flight attendant she had given them to the pilot who then threw them out the window. ("What a big difference a little extra service can make" – was the tagline).
It took a while to adapt to Air NZ which was not a patch then on what it later became.
After Air New Zealand was recapitalised by the NZ Government in November 2001, CEOs Sir Ralph Norris and Rob Fyfe set about lifting the airline's game and establishing a strong brand for the "national flag carrier". It was a source of pride for many New Zealanders to fly overseas with Air NZ and that judgment call was reinforced by the many international awards the airline scooped.
Can it regain that status after the punishment the airline has taken through the impact of Covid-19?
It's important the airline preserves plenty of domestic passengers to feed into its international business. But recent issues – like the "for a while" absurdly high fares on the Auckland-Wellington routes for "seat only" tickets – loosen loyalty. If customers are unable to travel internationally with the airline, there is little point in maintaining status points. The equation goes: maybe it is better to just fly Jetstar while their fare is more competitive.
Then there is the matter of Air NZ's Wellington Koru Club lounge which is situated on the opposite side of the airport from the gates that the airline's jets traditionally use. These happen to be international or Jetstar gates.
Many of the early morning regulars who used to catch up at the Koru Club now buy a coffee and go straight to the gate rather than checking through security twice. The Air NZ jets are expected to return to their historic airport gates once the transtasman bubble and Pacific routes start operating.
It's no secret that Air NZ is cash-strapped. But my point is that if the loyalty goes, what's to stop passengers simply opting for other first-class airlines like Qatar Airways once international travel resumes?
That loyalty is also grounded in the strong interpersonal relationships built between the politicians and business travellers over many years with the airline's prior executive team. Many were "let go" under Greg Foran's leadership.
Foran's North American style has irked some. But he is sufficiently ruthless to have made the necessary deep cuts which have helped the airline's survival in an environment where a responsible major shareholder (aka the Government) would have opted to support a capital raising six months ago.
These observations are based not only on my experiences but that of other regulars.
The good news is that the airline is expected to complete its recapitalisation by the end of June 2021.
Air NZ chair Dame Therese Walsh announced in September that the Crown standby facility had started to be drawn down, providing the company with necessary liquidity support as it works on a plan for the future shape and size of its business post-Covid-19.
"Assuming there are no further material adverse developments, the company is expecting to complete the strategic capital structure review by early 2021 and be in a position to proceed with capital raising to be completed before June 2021," Walsh told the NZX.
The Government has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining its majority shareholding in Air New Zealand, but there has yet to be any indication of just where that leaves the airline's other shareholders, including offshore funds.
Some clarity on that is long overdue.
Second, what value does a giant Australian fund see in Infratil that NZ investors don't or won't?
Australian companies, fuelled by an explosion of Aussie compulsory super savings, laid siege to Kiwi companies in the 1990s and early 2000s. Insurance companies. Advisory firms and more ended up by being effectively run from across the ditch.
BNZ was swallowed by National Australia Bank. The two leading newspaper chains, Wilson and Horton and INL, ended up in the hands of APN and Fairfax respectively.
Shareholders were quiescent, preferring to take the proceeds of a quick flick rather than stay in for the long haul.
Offshore acquiring companies always present a rosy view of how the target will fare better in their hands. But the results do not always prove that. The level of bank profits extracted from New Zealand was far higher than those earned in Australia. Thus while shareholders profited, customers were hit with too high fees. Similarly, when it came to the newspapers (now swept into broad media companies) the margins earned in New Zealand surpassed that of Australia. It should be noted that the successor companies - NZME and Stuff - are now governed from NZ with Stuff in 100 per cent local ownership.
I wrote recently that AustralianSuper has employed Kiwi hired guns to make the case that acquiring Infratil does not offend New Zealand's "national interest" . Finance Minister Grant Robertson has avoided public engagement on this matter. He should engage.
There are other issues on my radar: Joe Biden's presidency, China, Jacinda Ardern's leadership and more.
These can wait until I return from my holiday.
This column resumes on Saturday January 30.
Enjoy a happy, safe and prosperous 2021.