Air New Zealand is almost back to where it started flying across the Tasman 80 years ago.
Ravaged by the fallout from Covid-19, the airline has cut back its schedule to around 5 per cent of what it was at the same time last year. Across the Tasman there are just seven return flights a week, three between Auckland and Sydney.
The airline, then Teal, hit this three-flight-a-week milestone in 1944 with its flying boat services which started April 30, 1940. That inaugural flight had nine passengers on board. Further illustrating the collapse in demand that was almost double the load on one Air NZ transtasman flight earlier this month where just five people were carried and 64 who had booked didn't turn up.
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By 1962 the demand for travel saw 33 return flights a week across the Tasman, nearly five times what Air New Zealand is doing now until at least the end of June. Not so long ago it was flying close to 400 services across the Tasman.
The airline made much of its 75th anniversary five years ago with exhibitions throughout the country at a time when it was experiencing full throttle growth and on the brink of its best ever financial result.
This year's birthday was always going to be a more modest celebration but with the pandemic, aside from some social media promotion highlighting what has been achieved until these ''extraordinary times'', this is a year Air New Zealand will rather forget.
It should have been so different.
With a new chair, Dame Therese Walsh, and chief executive, Greg Foran, this year promised to be a new chapter in the airline's evolution with further expansion in the United States planned, new cabin products and refinement in other areas.
Last year a public apology over the 1979 crash on Mt Erebus and its subsequent behaviour went further to put its darkest day behind it.
But then the rapid spread of the coronavirus and its paralysing affect on global travel has pushed most airlines close to failure and some over the edge.
Air New Zealand has seen its revenue collapse from $6 billion a year to an estimated $500 million - that's half of what it was 35 years ago. This means a second government bailout in a decade and it is deep into the process of laying off a third of its 12,500 staff as it looks at an immediate future of being a small domestic carrier with extremely modest ambitions of expanding in the region.
Right now the airline is largely in hibernation looking at ways to cut cash burn in its fight to survive.
Severance negotiations with unions and individuals are now at an intense and painful stage and years of work to improve labour relations are under threat.
Following the announcement of plans to shift a maintenance facility from Nelson, E tū union said Air New Zealand's effort to save money in an extreme response to the coronavirus is doing ''irreparable damage'' to the workplace culture.
"Air New Zealand's reputation as a great carrier and good employer is one of the main reasons for their success. It seems they are choosing to throw that all away to maintain their cash reserves while they slash and burn jobs. This is despite receiving the wage subsidy and a substantial loan from the Government,'' E tū aviation negotiation specialist, Paul Graham said.
The union's head of aviation, Savage, said the biggest challenge facing Air New Zealand is the damage to workplace culture caused by the fast-paced and heavy-handed way it is down-sizing.
"The company used to be seen as a socially responsible employer but the way they are acting is betraying their own brand. They are going about the changes in the wrong way."
The union has 5200 members at Air NZ and he worries about the future when more flights resume.
"The result of the changes they are enacting will be a disaffected and demoralised workforce far less inclined to go the extra mile.''
Most damaging are claims the airline is not being transparent on Covid-19 cases among crew.
This is acrimony not seen for years at Air New Zealand which is also under fire from passengers whose flights have been cancelled and want their money back rather than a credit for a flight in the future.
Those flying to the United States are by law entitled to their money back but others with non-refundable tickets - a condition which the airline emphasises - are not. These affected passengers have been given a wide window to re-book and travel and work is also being done to allow any passengers with credits for international flights to transfer them to any Air New Zealand destination.
The reason for hanging tough on non-refundable tickets is clear. At the beginning of the year the airline had $1.4 billion in advance revenue - flights paid for but not provided. By sticking to the fine print it is doing what it can to protect its financial position but taking a hit from New Zealanders who have an emotional connection and growing real ownership of the company.
While the airline is under fire from staff and customers it came into this crisis in high public standing.
A RepTrak annual reputation ranking done before Covid-19 was felt put Air NZ at the top of the list as Australia and New Zealand's most trusted, respected and admired company.
The airline's chief marketing and customer officer Mike Tod said the news was heartening as it faces the most disruptive period in its 80-year history.
The RepTrak Company says around the world people will continue to support companies that have stronger reputations.
Into its 81st year this is something Air New Zealand hopes will come to pass. It will have a big advantage if its hibernation strategy works - it could have very little competition.
That was then - this is now
Feeding 17 million passengers a year.
Air NZ's Kia Ora magazine won't be read by many on planes right now but this month's edition recalls the glory days of airline food and looks at what was on the menu before coronavirus hit.
In 1940, a Teal luncheon meant oysters on shell and tomato soup to start, followed by a cold buffet of roast chicken, pineapple ham and salads, topped off with fruit salad and cream, cheese, biscuits and coffee. Pressed ox tongue has also been on the menu.
In the 1950s and 1960s, first-class passengers could indulge in a pre-luncheon martini and hors d'oeuvres, then have whole crayfish delivered to their seats.
First-class service, complete with Crown Lynn crockery, rivalled anything on the ground in the 1960s, the magazine says.
Inflight catering manager Murray Hare said the food was more elaborate than now even 20 or 25 years ago.
Economy passengers could expect prawn cocktail starters, beef eye-fillet with all the accompaniments, and pavlova with fresh strawberries for dessert.
First class meals - such as those served to the Queen who flew on the airline in 1995 - were a ''very beautiful experience," Hare says.
"We often served caviar, foie gras, lobster and scallops, and our customers drank Dom Perignon. We used to have knives on board, including large, sharp carving knives, and the crew would serve beef Wellington carved at your seat."
Tighter safety regulations put an end to on-board carving knives in the early 2000s, and demand for more affordable air travel has seen some of the more extravagant menu items dropped.
Business Premier passengers could choose from a full menu of appetisers, mains and desserts, and dine with tablecloths, china and glassware and each menu includes a dish from leading restaurateur Peter Gordon, who has been a consultant chef for Air New Zealand since 1996.
In 2018 the airline broke new ground by serving the, plant-based Impossible Burger on flights from Los Angeles to Auckland.
The Impossible Burger's magic ingredient is an iron-containing molecule called heme which comes from the roots of soy plants. The heme in the Impossible Burger is the same as the heme found in animal meat. The result was a plant-based burger patty that cooks, smells and tastes like beef but contained no animal products.
The airline also attracted worldwide attention for its vanilla-flavoured edible coffee cups which it trialled last year.
But temporary Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in a much pared back offering on the limited number of Air NZ flights ''to keep our crew and customers safe and provide a simplified plan for our catering partners, who are also working with reduced resources.''
Uniforms - the great dividers
From 1940 uniforms were military style reflecting the Air Force origins of many airlines.
A book to mark the airline's 75th anniversary drew on the official account which said the uniform was ''in black barathea, made in military style with square-shouldered double-breasted jacket. Man-styled white shirt with ties and Glengarry hats.
In summer the uniform was white shirt-waist dresses in fawn gabardine.''
Air NZ: Celebrating 75 years says that from 1961 the airline (still called Teal) was the first in the world to have a wardrobe designed by the House of Dior. It was described as tailored, elegant and timeless.
Officially it was a ''white silk blouse and turquoise pure worsted tricotine skirt. Cravat top of blouse over rounded, collarless neckline of jacket. Blouse and skirt banded together with wide belt giving top a blouson effect which looks like a one-piece dress. Topcoat with set-away collar to show cravat. Pillbox style hat.''
The uniforms were made in NZ. From 1969 to 1973 there was a new look inflight - kaftans in four colours, turquoise, watermelon pink, lilac and strawberry with a stylised hibiscus motif on the sleeves.
In 1976 Parisian fashion house Nina Ricci came aboard, uniforms now featuring a geometric border print in toning shades of blue and teal with ''white for use in a skirt and top to wear on dinner flights''. Thornton Hall from 1987 used navy and teal materials and the dress uniform included a double-breasted jacket with brass button and epaulets.
The Barbara Lee uniform from 1992 for 1200 ground staff included a women's uniform of four different outfits allowing for a range of different mix and match options.
In 2005 the introduction of uniforms designed by NZ's Zambesi was a shift to a more austere look but staff reportedly complained it creased easily, was difficult to keep clean and was unflattering. There was also criticism the uniform resembled something out of Thunderbirds.
In 2010 Trelise Cooper beat more than 20 other designers for her range of bright pink, pale blue and lime green uniforms for the nearly 4500 cabin crew.
There were plans to seek a replacement two years ago but those were shelved and any new look is now some way off. Other airlines have rolled out emergency uniforms during the Covid-19 crisis heavy with PPE influences.