Air New Zealand is understood to be working with an alliance partner to lease another aircraft to alleviate the impact of Dreamliner engine problems as a travel expert warns the airline risks brand damage for leaving thousands of passengers in limbo.
The airline has leased five aircraft from other airlines at different times over the past 18 months to help maintain its schedule and it may take a week to firm a deal to get another.
But executive general manager at Helloworld, Simon Mckearney, says no matter what steps the airline takes, it risks passengers losing patience.
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Up to 14,000 passengers will be affected by required Rolls-Royce maintenance on engines which can't be staggered as that company faces a new wave of problems on Trent engines that power Dreamliners on airlines around the world.
Services to Perth are badly affected over December and January.
McKearney said there was an "oh no, not again" feeling when the airline announced the new checks and flight cancellations.
''You have to feel for Air New Zealand as safety will always take precedent, but customers [have] lost patience,'' he said.
When there was an urgent grounding of planes in 2017 following engine malfunctions, customers accepted the issues.
''But this time, and without the general public understanding the engineering complexities, the influx of feedback from our member agencies is a real sense of frustration from customers and agents alike.''
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The flights were only one component of the journey. Hotels, rental cars and activities that people have booked all needed to be shuffled around and this was disruptive, said McKearney.
Agents were all ''very good'' at dealing with this but compensation for their time and work wasn't covered by Air New Zealand's insurance.
''This is brand damaging and is unfortunately playing into the hands of the other airlines where the routes are ultra competitive - Emirates on the Bali route and Qantas on the Tasman,'' said McKearney.
Shane Solly, a portfolio manager for Harbour Asset Management said safety had to come first and Air New Zealand had built its brand on safety and service.
He said at the margin Rolls-Royce may have been overly optimistic in terms what was required and in the timing of the repairs.
''The schedule disruptions are obviously bad for customers and they may impact on Air New Zealand's near term profitability as it incurs extra costs and operational inefficiencies.''
An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline was doing all it could to deal with the latest issue with the least impact to its customers.
There are several alternatives for getting customers to Perth from both Christchurch and Auckland, including on the Auckland-Perth service or rerouting customers via Sydney or Melbourne if required.
Asked how customers had responded, the spokeswoman said: ''Naturally it's a busy time of the year and, as you'd expect, affected customers are reaching out about their upcoming travel plans.''
The Trent issue was not related to how the engine is operated, but the engine itself.
''We've been working closely with Rolls-Royce to mitigate the impact of these issues while we wait for shop capacity, including changing the way we operate the engine to lower engine temperature on take-off and while the aircraft is climbing to preserve engine life.''
The airline has dumped Rolls as the supplier of its next tranche of Dreamliners - Boeing 787-10s due to enter the fleet from 2022. Air New Zealand has opted for General Electric engines to power the new planes.
The disruption comes in the midst of tense negotiations with E tū, the union representing Dreamliner cabin crew.
"Crew are not paid enough for the work they do, and this latest round of engine problems will almost certainly see the company looking to limit costs even more,'' said the union's head of aviation, Savage.
"Crew have been through a lot in the two years since the first engine problems were discovered. They are dedicated professionals and they understand how the industry works. However, they do not want to see their working conditions and aviation standards decline even more than they already have."
Air New Zealand has 650 Dreamliner cabin crew and the airline spokeswoman said it was working close with them and E tū on how the most recent engine issues would affect its requirements in the coming months.
''We are doing everything we can for our crew, including offering the opportunity to take more annual leave for those who would like to, taking extended leave without pay, working reduced hours or moving to another aircraft fleet where possible.''
President of the NZ Air Line Pilots' Association Andrew Ridling said Dreamliner pilots were being offered more opportunities to train to crew Boeing 777s as they will be doing more flying to plug gaps.
It is thought that between two and four of the airline's 14 Dreamliners will be out of action during the latest round of engine checks.
''Air New Zealand is doing what Air New Zealand has to do. What else can they do?'' said Ridling, a 787 captain who flies the Perth route.
Disruption would be costly for the airline. Dreamliners were cost-effective aircraft and swapping in a 777 at short notice would be expensive.
He said he understood Air New Zealand was being conservative in its approach, cancelling services early rather than disappointing passengers at a later stage.
While he didn't know exactly how certain routes were selected for cancellation, loads would be a consideration.
''They would have targeted the sectors that would have had the least impact on public perception and revenue,'' said Ridling.