A couple are facing a wedding disaster as the planned Air New Zealand engineers' strike threatens to throw their plans into disarray.
The national airline revealed yesterday morning that its engineers planned to strike on December 21 - the busiest day of the year for Air New Zealand, putting Christmas travel plans at risk for tens of thousands of travellers.
Unions will begin mediation talks on Monday in a bid to avoid the strike which would involve around 1000 staff members, and could affect the travel plans of 42,000 customers booked to travel on that day.
And a travel expert said that the strike might not just ground planned travellers on December 21 - warning of flow-on impacts for other travellers leading up to the festive season.
If the strike goes ahead, travellers caught up include guests for Raina Ng's wedding to her fiance, Trent Young, who will be flying into Wellington from Auckland, Dunedin and Malaysia on December 21 - the eve of the wedding.
Ng, a lawyer, said she and Young were now desperately searching for a plan b to get their families to the capital.
They have considered helping their family reschedule flights, though Ng expected this would be a "nightmare" with hundreds of others attempting the same thing.
Family was "really, really important" to the couple, and Ng couldn't envision the day without them.
"If you have a wedding without your family there, it's kind of just pointless" she said.
The day was also meant to be a reunion of sorts for Ng's family. She hadn't seen several of her family members who lived in Malaysia for several years.
"They've come all the way for this . . . I mean it's kind of the point of their trip."
Ng and Young got engaged last year. They had set the date early, Ng said "to let family know so they can plan their travels".
Ng said she hoped the strike would be avoided. The planned strike was just "one more thing" for her to be stressed about ahead of her big day.
"You kind of hit little bumps as you go, and then it gets to the point where you're like ugh really? Another one?"
The couple are among thousands whose holiday plans are in limbo after the announcement of the strike over pay.
One Melbourne-based Kiwi said it would completely "stuff up" her plans to come home for Christmas - which she had saved for more than a year to afford.
Forking out the cash to pay for alternative flights would cost an arm and a leg, she worried, as she needed a domestic flight to Wellington after flying into Auckland.
For another Kiwi, the strike put a holiday cruise in jeopardy.
He had booked a seat on a flight bound for Australia on the morning of December 21, and was due to hop on a cruise that departed Sydney that evening.
The strike falls on one of Auckland Airport's busiest days of the year, with more than 40,000 travellers expected through the international terminal.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was concerned about the number of travellers who could be affected by the planned industrial action.
"While the Government is not directly involved in negotiations I am very concerned it will affect many travellers," Ardern said yesterday.
"Every effort needs to be made to try and prevent such significant disruption which is why I have asked officials to be ready and available to assist Air NZ and the unions to get back to the table and get a resolution as quickly as possible," she said in a statement provided to the Herald.
The impact is expected to continue well beyond December 21, warned Brent Thomas, commercial director for House of Travel.
"The 22nd through to the 24th will be close to fully booked already," he said.
"The availability of seats on those flights is going to be fairly limited."
Thomas said the only option would be for Air New Zealand to add new flights around the strike for those impacted on December 21.
He added the strike would cause issues for people connecting with international flights.
A statement from Air New Zealand said that while the group of engineers has received pay increases annually for the past 12 years, it has so far rejected recent proposals by the airline.
These included an immediate 2 per cent pay increase followed by a further 3 per cent increase after 12 months, with a further pay review in mid-2021.
Air New Zealand said the average income of the maintenance engineers, logistics and other staff to strike is $115,000 - and around 170 of them earn more than $150,000.
The airline also said in addition to the pay concerns, staff are also asking for an extra week of annual leave for employees with five years' service (taking shift workers to six weeks a year), free reserved car parking spaces within 500 metres of their workplace, and the right to renegotiate terms just prior to the busy Christmas season again next year.
But the aviation spokesman for E tū claimed the strike notices had been issued in response to Air New Zealand's demands for cuts to members' conditions.
"This is not about pay," he said. "It's about repeated proposals by the airline weeks out from Christmas to pay them less than colleagues who have already settled and to cut into key conditions, including overtime rates."
21 December — the busiest day of the year, when Air New Zealand engineers are planning to strike
1000 staff members expected to be involved
42,000 passengers expected to be affected