Air New Zealand has leased two aircraft from a Portuguese charter company to help maintain its timetable after Dreamliner engine problems forced unscheduled maintenance.

The Airbus 330 and Airbus 340 are being chartered from Portuguese company Hi Fly. They are expected to begin operating some Auckland-Sydney and all Auckland-Perth services by next week.

Air New Zealand general manager customer experience Anita Hawthorne said the airline was working hard to minimise the impact on customers caused by the unscheduled Rolls-Royce engine maintenance.

Two flights were affected last week after problems with turbine blades in the Trent 1000 engines which are being replaced on Dreamliners around the world. One Tokyo-bound flight had to shut its engine down after it was damaged.

Advertisement

Hawthorne said about 4500 customers had been affected by international flight delays and cancellations over the past week.

''Once these two additional aircraft are in service we will be able to operate a near-normal timetable," she said.

"We are acutely mindful of how important travel is to so many of our customers at this time of year and we are committed to ensuring we connect people with family, friends and the experiences they are looking forward to,'' she said.

''Equally, it is a critical time of year for our cargo customers, so giving them certainty to be able to continue to move goods internationally is important."

Air New Zealand's 787-9 Dreamliner at the Boeing factory, Seattle, Washington. Photo / NZ Herald
Air New Zealand's 787-9 Dreamliner at the Boeing factory, Seattle, Washington. Photo / NZ Herald

Hawthorne says customers travelling on the leased aircraft would notice some difference in product and service style.

Hi Fly owns 20 aircraft and they are available under ''wet lease'' arrangements under which it supplies crew, maintenance and insurance.

Hawthorne said they aircraft would operate under the oversight of Air New Zealand.

''This was a much quicker path to get the aircraft into our network than going through a lengthy certification and training programme for our own people, who are not trained to operate the Airbus widebody aircraft,'' she said.

Advertisement

"Air New Zealand's union partners have been extremely understanding of this situation and share our commitment to take the necessary steps to maintain the flight schedule over this important Christmas and summer period,'' she said.

E tū union aviation spokesman Kelvin Ellis said the union was working closely with the airline to protect staff affected. There were about 600 cabin crew on board Dreamliners.

''Instead of going into lockdown they've been quite open about things which is good to see.''

While he couldn't comment on the problem with the engines, he said the airline had handled the issue well.

''We support an airline that grounds aircraft proactively and in this case at least one of those aircraft has been pulled out of service proactively.''