The country’s largest aviation union is commending Air New Zealand’s decision to rehire all its furloughed A320 cabin crew, but warns that it needs to do this correctly to repair the damage caused by its redundancy processes.
The move by the airline follows a decision by Cabinet on Monday – in principle – to establish quarantine-free travel with Australia and Rarotonga early next year.
E tū Head of Aviation Savage said in a statement that the increasing amount of international air travel was a “positive development for New Zealand and the aviation industry”.
However, he said the “anguish and stress cabin crew and airline workers” had faced over the past year was still fresh, and for many, their situations remained uncertain.
“E tū members want the company to avoid making the same sorts of mistakes they made in their rush to redundancy and furlough. We are seeking a fair and transparent process free of favouritism to select returning crew,” Savage said.
More than 170 cabin crew members have been on furlough since June due to the pandemic.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the travel bubble with Australia would be expected in the first quarter of 2021 “pending confirmation from the Australian Cabinet and no significant change in the circumstances in either country”.
Officials have been working on preparations for that, Ardern said, while acknowledging that one of the criteria was 28 days of no community transmission.
The airline praised the decision to open the travel bubble, adding that the company was looking forward to “reconnecting more New Zealanders with our Pacific and Australian neighbours”.
Air New Zealand general manager cabin crew Leeanne Langridge said the company was excited to be able to welcome back crews.
Langridge said “crew are really keen to get back on board” and that it had 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,” she said.