Air New Zealand will recall all of its A320 cabin crew who are currently on furlough, as the airline begins preparations for quarantine-free travel to Australia and Rarotonga early next year.
It says the 175 cabin crew members have been on furlough since June, having chosen to stay connected to the airline rather than take redundancy.
Air New Zealand general manager of cabin crew Leeanne Langridge said it was exciting to be able to offer these cabin crew a position back with the airline.
Union for cabin crew, E tū, says the airline has the chance to repair some damage done earlier this year if it gets the re-hiring process right.
Langridge said: "We know these crew are really keen to get back on board, so it's been heartwarming to make these phone calls before Christmas. Their uniforms are all ready to be collected and I'm sure many of them can't wait to wear the koru again.''
It is hoped two-way quarantine-free travel bubbles can be established with Australia and Rarotonga by the end of March. Although the Government has not fixed a firm date for the establishment of a bubble, airlines have started loading much more capacity into their booking systems from March 28.
The recall of crew is some good news at the end of a grim year for Air New Zealand staff. More than 4000, or a third of the workforce, have been made redundant or left the airline this year as travel collapsed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Langridge said the crew recalled represent had missed being part of our customers' journey.
"We've had incredible feedback from businesses all over the country about our cabin crew who have been volunteering and working in other industries while they have been on furlough.''
They would now undergo comprehensive refresher training before flying again.
E tū head of aviation, Savage, said the union was in talks with the company about the rehiring right now.
''We are discussing how and who they rehire from among the former A320 crew and also a fair process for bringing back other furloughed crew if there aren't enough A320 crew willing or available to return.''
The union's members want the company to avoid making the same sorts of mistakes they made in the ''rush'' to redundancy and furlough.
It was seeking a fair and transparent process free of favouritism to select returning crew.
''The anguish and stress cabin crew and airline workers have faced this past year as they and their colleagues have lost jobs is still fresh, and for many, their situations remain uncertain,'' said Savage
''If the company does this right, they have an opportunity to repair some of the damage created by their redundancy processes.''
He said the vaccination timetables and the increasing amount of domestic and international air travel were a positive development for New Zealand and the aviation industry.
Virgin Australia, which pulled out of this market, is planning for 70 flights a week between New Zealand and Australia. Air New Zealand and Qantas have also added dozens more flights from the end of March.
A Virgin Australia spokesman said the New Zealand Government's in-principle decision to establish quarantine-free travel with Australia was ''very much welcomed" and provided further confidence for travellers and those looking to do business across the Tasman.