Air New Zealand boss Greg Foran is at the business epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

His airline is bleeding cash and faces a revenue crash from $6 billion to $500m but has had a calm airline outsider's presence since the crisis has deepened and his performance has been praised in the investment community and aviation industry.

He rose to the top job of Walmart in the United States, the world's biggest retailer that served half the country's population every week.

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He's got some tips for business leaders who face challenges not seen for decades:

''This is a period where people are looking for clear communication. This is a heightened period for many people so over-communication is important and making sure it is all clear, concise and timely.''

Deal in facts
''Facts are your friends in these situations, getting really good data, really good information and making sure it is updated is important.''

Look for options
''When you're not sure of the outcome give yourself options so you have the ability to turn left or right. It's like you're driving in a new city, you're not sure whether you're meant to be in the left lane or the right lane so you probably want to stay in the middle. As you get closer to the intersection and you get more data then you can decide. Be careful about giving yourself options.''

Foran had what he says was a fairly typical upbringing before his launch into retail and the corporate world 41 years ago. He can't put his finger on where the calm comes from.

''There's no point in panicking. It doesn't serve anyone any good at this time.'' The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

The fast-deteriorating travel environment has made the airline step up direct communications to customers from marketing boss Mike Tod and frequent tweeted updates from chief revenue officer Cam Wallace.


Foran says the magnitude of the crisis is bigger than anything he has faced in his 41 years in business but he's been impressed with the resilience of the airline.

''There aren't too many businesses that have seen their turnover go from $6 billion to nothing in a matter of weeks,'' he said.

''We've got people here on the frontline dealing with people in a really difficult situation - passengers who are a bit panicked about what is happening and we've got flight crew all around the world dealing with this: airport workers, maintenance people who are repairing things - I've been really impressed with how our people have dealt with this.''

Each week there is a fresh blow to the network as ever-tightening border restrictions mean Air New Zealand and most other airlines are facing a period of hibernation.

Its international schedule is being cut by 95 per cent to just 11 routes and domestic flights will be trimmed further next week to provide services for essential service workers over the shut-down.

This will mean about a third of the airline's 12,500 workers face losing their jobs. The airline is now deep in talks with unions and individuals over who may go.

Foran has a reputation for mixing with staff in all roles in the business and had demonstrated this in the lead-up to taking up his role on February 3. But now he will oversee mass job cuts.

This, he said, would be one of the worst parts of the job but it was necessary to help the airline get through the crisis and meet a new competitive environment in a position of strength.

''I do not assume that the travel industry is going to bounce back quickly. All countries [are] dealing with Covid 19 [differently.] So the business is not going to come bouncing back like it did with Sars (in 2003). It will come back but it's probably going to take longer and likely to be with different competitors.''

He expects operators to pick up cheap planes from failed airlines and change the landscape of flying.

''With that in my mind now is the time to make some of these decisions and ensure that we will be in a position to do well. I don't like having to do it.''

It was difficult to predict how things were going to be like week to week but the longer the company was able to forecast out it got a little easier.

''But even six months will be quite difficult [to predict]. I think we'll be back flying all around New Zealand, and I think New Zealanders will be keen to leave the houses and get out and have a weekend away in a week.

''I'm not sure how much international flying we'll be doing in six months. I can't imagine that it's open skies and everyone is flying everywhere. I'm not expecting in six months that we anything back to the scale and size that we are now.''