Gutting of Air New Zealand's domestic network hasn't surprised pilots who have been flying aircraft with no passengers over the last week.
From tomorrow the airline will fly to just five cities - Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin. Flights to around 15 other destinations on the domestic network were only possible if required by the Government.
Its services have been slashed from around 400 a day to 14 a day during the week and less at the weekend as Covid-19 restrictions limits travel to essential workers only.
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New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association president Andrew Ridling said while it was difficult to believe the scale of the cuts, they were inevitable.
''Our regional colleagues have been saying how can we keep flying aeroplanes with no passengers on board? We can't keep doing this,'' he said.
It cost between $8000 and $10,000 an hour to operate a turbo-prop plane.
The association is in the early stages of dealing with the airline over redundancies. While Air NZ says a third of staff may go, Ridling said no number of pilots had been outlined.
From a total of almost 1820 Air New Zealand Jet and regional pilots, 1525 are NZALPA members.
''As we're getting down to individuals and families it is really starting to hit home - that is when the pressure is starting to come on to people.''
The association had been shown how dire the financial position of Air NZ is by chief executive Greg Foran. Passenger revenue has effectively dried up, it is having to refund tickets paid for in advance and income from its expanding freight operation will have a limited impact.
''We haven't talked redundancies yet. They've undertaken to work through all the numbers with us to the point they've given us access to all the accounts. Greg has given access to anything we want to justify the numbers.''
The association wanted talks at the ''right level.''
''You want to be sitting at that top table - I was once told that if you're not at the table you're on the menu. I feel that it's important here, everyone needs trust and belief in where we're going because if we lose that it's all going to fall apart.
Grounded pilots were still receiving their basic salaries but flying pay of up to 30 per cent on top was now gone.
Base pay for an ATR first officer was around $60,000 a year and that grew to around $320,000 for a 777 captain.
''We've got alot of people on the small number and a very few on the big number,'' said Ridling, a Dreamliner captain.
The $65,000 first officer in Air NZ regional is the person we're going to need from the beginning.
He had a Zoom meeting with 35 union leaders within the Star Alliance group and all airlines were in the same position.
''They're hanging on grimly, trying to get through the next month.''
It would be a sad for Air NZ - which believes its recovery will start as being primarily a domestic airline - to lose pilots who were among the best-trained and experienced in the world, he said.
A European intergovernmental aviation group, Eurocontral, has calculated that in a pessimistic scenario traffic could recover from being down 90 per cent on last year at present to being down 20 per cent by December and down just 10 per cent in a best case.
''Air New Zealand may be a little more conservative than that.''
Ridling said both Qantas and Singapore Airlines had stated they want to come back stronger and the same was possible for Air NZ, if other competitors drop out.
He said the new landscape could mean low-cost operators capitalising on a glut of planes and surplus crew from failed airlines and swooping into markets around the world.
''There could be a bit of a bloodbath for a while. We need to preserve what we can so that aviation can recover as soon as the conditions permit. This includes keeping the door open to bringing our skilled pilots back.''
Pilots who were among the ''worst to be locked in a house for four weeks'' had simulator hours requirements relaxed for several months by the Civil Aviation Authority.
He said there needed to be leadership at industry, national and global level was needed to get people flying again when the health threat from the coronavirus passed.
''I've been a very big supporter of what Greg has done to date - he's been upfront and honest with the staff. He's standing up, but I haven't seen many big business leaders coming out with the plan for New Zealand - how are we going to get people back flying again, buying stuff at Bunnings - getting the economy going again.''
Leaders were busy trying to solve the problems in front of them but needed to think long-term.