Travellers to and from New Zealand can expect months of disruption when two Air New Zealand aircraft are pulled out of service for engine repairs.
The airline announced today that two of its 11 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, which fly on long-haul routes such as to Asia, Europe and North America, will be sent to Singapore for repairs on their Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.
They are among 340 aircraft globally affected by a directive by European aviation regulator EASA requiring operators of a type of Trent 1000 engine known as 'Package C' to carry out earlier than usual maintenance checks on part of the engine compressor.
"This is placing very high demand on Rolls-Royce's maintenance facility, meaning it may take a number of months before Air New Zealand's engine repair work can be completed," the airline said.
House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said travellers to and from New Zealand would have to be prepared for flight changes after making their bookings.
"It's not just an Air NZ issue, therefore customers travelling on other Dreamliners around the world may be impacted too," he said.
"What will happen is that the airlines will now have to reschedule their planes, so we have to work out where they have capacity to move different aircraft to different parts of their routes.
"It's going to be a major disruption for the NZ public travelling overseas. The knock-on impact will affect tours and hotels and other flights."
He said people should still make bookings as usual, but they would need to be flexible.
"People just need to be aware that things could change," he said.
Air NZ said it would publish flight schedule changes "in the coming days".
"Air NZ will communicate directly with affected customers and travel agents," it said.
"Air NZ is also investigating a range of charter options to minimise customer impact, which will include re-introducing charter services operated European carrier Hi Fly next month."
Earlier this week Air New Zealand rescheduled a number of services and cancelled a small number of services this week and next.
"Going forward the airline will need to continue to make changes to flight timings and the aircraft type operating on some routes in order to avoid further flight cancellations to the extent that is possible," the airline said.
It said it had now completed checks on all of its Trent 1000 engines.
"Bear in mind that engines are also regularly swapped around between aircraft to enable routine maintenance so an aircraft and its two engines do not stay together as a package, the combinations change," a spokeswoman said.
"At times an aircraft can even have two different models of Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines [in our case a 'Package C' and a 'TEN'].
"However, the best way to describe it is that we have 11 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in our fleet and two will be out of service for a period as a result of this issue."
The airline also has 16 other long-haul aircraft that are not Dreamliners, so the issue will reduce its long-haul capacity by two out of 27 aircraft, or about 7 per cent.
Air NZ chief operational integrity and standards officer David Morgan said the airline remained fully compliant with the directives of EASA, the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and Rolls-Royce.
"Unfortunately this will mean disruption for our customers in the coming months as we adjust our schedule and fleet utilisation to accommodate these challenges and we thank our customers for their patience as we work through this," he said.
"Like Air NZ, aviation regulators prioritise safety over everything else and EASA and FAA have taken a very conservative approach in the checks and restrictions they've put in place around these engines.
"Customers travelling on our Dreamliner aircraft can be very confident in the integrity of the engines."