A union representing aviation workers says some crew affected by Air New Zealand's decision to axe its Los Angeles-London flights found out about the call mid-flight.

The 130 London-based crew are members of Unite union in Britain.

E tū union here says they are a mix of nationalities with about 30 New Zealanders.

"As we understand it, some of the London crew will have found out today while half-way to LA that the base was closing," says E tū's head of aviation, Savage.

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It is understood that Air New Zealand had extra cabin crew and cabin managers on board to ensure that the affected staff were supported when the announcement was made earlier today.

Savage said the union was not surprised by the decision to pull out of its London base and end flights between Los Angeles and London from next October.

For many years, Kiwi travellers have looked to fly to Europe via LA and London, and the soon-to-be-defunct Air NZ route was popular in the past.

But he says that has changed as more players have crowded the trans-Atlantic market and flights via the Middle East and Asia have become more desirable.

"After 36 years, it's definitely the end of an era, and our thoughts are with the cabin crew and other UK based staff who will lose their jobs."

Savage said "only cabin crew know what it is like to be cabin crew" so regardless of which union they belong to or where they live, E tū members have strong solidarity with fellow Air New Zealand crew who are now facing redundancy.

"We have contacted the union officials in London and will be offering whatever assistance we can."

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Air New Zealand senior executives have been in London and Los Angeles for the past few days. The New Zealand London-based crew could find jobs in other parts of the airline.

It is understood many of the other staff have homes and families in Britain and Europe and are more firmly established there.

Savage says the announcement of direct flights to New York was not unexpected.

The focus is now on Pacific-rim countries as Air NZ re-positions itself in the market.

The union's members on the Boeing 787s are in contract negotiations with the company and that includes agreements on ultra long range flying where duty times for crew will be around 19 hours, he says.

Savage said both moves reflect a strong focus within Air New Zealand on profit.

"It is clear the airline is focused on maximising profits on every route they fly. For E tū members, it is important the drive to increase company profits does not undermine the company's social commitments to its own employees."

Profit at the expense of decent well-paid aviation jobs here in New Zealand will not help the New Zealand economy thrive, said Savage.