Thursday, 26 November 2009

Pero v Air New Zealand [updated]

I’m surprised and confused.  I woke to discover that the leading news this morning is the story of Air New Zealand’s bleating about Mike Pero chartering a plane to take families of Air New Zealand’s Erebus victims to the scene of the disaster on its 30th anniversary.  Air New Zealand call his charter flight for family members to fly over the site where 257 people died “deeply disrespectful” and “commercial opportunism of the worst kind.” Story here.

I’m surprised first of all that Air New Zealand would want to mark this particular anniversary by bitching in the press.

This is no ordinary anniversary marking no ordinary series of cock-ups. With what we now know about what Air New Zealand got up to on, after and before that flight – the error programmed into the navigational computer that put them on a flight path straight into a mountain; the damning of the dead pilots; the litany of lies orchestrated by Air New Zealand under Morrie Davis to cover up their responsibility for the tragedy; the use of the Prime Minister to protect the government department that was (and still is) Air New Zealand) by damning Justice Mahon and his subsequent report – we now know that the disaster itself and the incompetence, dishonesty, bullying and frankly scurrilous behaviour on show mark one of the blackest and most disgusting stories in New Zealand history.  257 deaths and a disgracefully cynical attempt at a cover up.

You’d think that instead of shooting their mouths off in the press Air New Zealand would want instead to mark the occasion by keeping them tight shut, and by doing something special for all the families.
But they can’t do either.  Instead they’re shooting their mouths off to condemn somebody who is.  So that’s not just surprising, is it. The chutzpah of it is astonishing.

And I’m deeply confused, too.  Air New Zealand is taking only six family members to the ice thirty years after 257 people died there, leaving an unfilled demand from hundreds more that Mike Pero is stepping in to supply at his own risk. That looks to me like commercial opportunism of the best kind – offering a service to families wanting to go to where their loved ones died that the carrier responsible for killing them can’t even be bothered meeting.  A service that families appear to be eager to take up, or Mr Pero wouldn’t be making the offer.  A service which is entirely their business if they want to take it up, not Air New Zealand’s.

So that’s confusing, isn’t it? Sure, Air New Zealand has been a government department for most of its life, and it was responsible for one of the worst chapters in New Zealand commercial history, but today it likes to at least pretend that it’s a real business (which I’ll start to believe when it starts to refunds taxpayers what it owes them), so you’d like to think it might now have discovered some idea of what honesty, decency and commercial reality looks like.

Or has it?

UPDATE: For those who need reminding of the history, or who weren't alive here at the time, this fairly even-handed Dominion report on the Erebus Crash: Myths & Reality is worth catching up on.


  1. The corporate culture at Air NZ is still riddled with unbelieveable arrogance, from the top right down to the flight attendants and check in staff who snap and scowl at anyone who doesn't follow their orders.
    They also have embraced the litany of lies mantra, which they use every time a flight is late, cancelled, or, inexcusably, overbooked.
    It would have been far better for the travelling public for Air NZ to be taken over or allowed to fail rather than being vandalised and nationalised by the socialists.

  2. TWR, some of our Air NZ flight attendants are quite hot, even the married ones. I've managed to bonk a few of those hot chicks in recent years (even the ones who already got partners).

  3. Well all the hot ones are obviously off bonking you rather than serving customers, because the ones I usually see look and act more like the "worries" off the old Tower ads.

    It's pretty obvious that the staff care a lot more about following their own internal processes than giving customers a decent service. Ever since they cancelled my wife's flight home on xmas eve last year and lied about why, I've used Pacific Blue and couldn't be happier. Far cheaper, far better staff, and more leg room. Lost Air NZ thousands but what would they care.

  4. Air New Zealand management operate in permanent ‘reptilian brain’ mode.

    They make Scientologists look positively philanthropic and less self-serving in comparison.

    Agree, Air New Zealand should cough-up the tax-payers billion bucks they needed to bail them out of their own inept business decisions i.e. Ansett and stop trying to act like a commercial entity, rather accept they are another Government Department.

    The reality is Air New Zealand doesn’t need to make money a business-man like Mike Pero and those behind the flight do.

    Outstanding post.


  5. Can't say that the Air NZ flight attendants I have seen on domestic flights are anything to write home about. Most have to walk sideways to fit down the isle and would be a few years shy of their pension


  6. What a shame. Rob Fyfe started a conciliatory process and his Spin Doctor Dept has ruined that with a single statement. Obviously whoever is the Spin Dr is about 25 years of age and has no memory of the 1979 crash caused by the airline.

    Along comes a philanthropist making a friendly gesture and get his head bitten off by a grinch. Go Mike Pero.

    Graham Weir

  7. CA

    "They make Scientologists look positively philanthropic and less self-serving in comparison."

    Probably because the ANZ Erebus CEO actually was a scientologist.


  8. Can't say that the Air NZ flight attendants I have seen on domestic flights are anything to write home about. Most have to walk sideways to fit down the isle and would be a few years shy of their pension

    Unlike the devastatingly handsome and slim passengers, I guess...

    It's been quite the year for taking pot-shots at capitalists, hasn't it. Disgusting that AIR trys to take the moral high ground.

  9. Er, these would be the capitalists running the government owned near monopoly would it? Time for a dictionary Ruth.

  10. I think the pilots should take some of the blame, though I don't know how much. I know Air NZ were at fault and behaved badly but flying low and blind in a "white out" and not knowing where you are is seriously dangerous stuff. There are many well informed independent people in the aviation industry who say this.

  11. Bear in mind that until 2001, Air NZ had been operating commercially and privately for over 12 years. Government bailed it out rather than let it be 49% Singaporean owned.

    Having said that, it's easily one of the better performing state owned companies today. However, the future as predicted in 2000/2001 when Cullen/Clark screwed it up, is coming to pass.

    It faces intense domestic competition in the most open market in the world, the Tasman/Pacific services are marginal and the long haul routes are now down to just US, Canada, UK, China, Hong Kong and Japan. It has a monopoly on three of these, and is dominant on two.

    NZ ought not to be picking on Pero, Pero is after all, one of the foolish investors who has already poured a fortune into an airline (Origin Pacific) to watch it go up in smoke.

    The answer, of course, is that it will be time to privatise in due course, to get a return from what Cullen poured into it in the first place.

  12. I assumed you would realise I meant Pero as the capitalist here twr. Sigh.

  13. Lee S

    Yes. Fair enough. It is clear they did not know where they were. They were peering through the cockpit windows searching for landmarks just before they died. Incredibly they had a passenger in the cockpit trying to assist identifying their location.

    Having said that, it remains correct that airline management were well aware of the low flying that had been going on during previous flights. The rules were routinely broken and many individuals in positions of responsibility within the airline knew all about that. Few opposed it. None took action. Indeed, it was expected that pilots would descend to very low flight levels in order to give the passengers a chance to admire the view.

    There was always going to be pressure to give the passengers their money's worth. That was the point of each flight- the view of the icy continent, the money shot for the cameras. Don't forget that the airline received considerable adverse comment and bad PR when flights returned to NZ without the passengers seeing much (due to those particular flight crews deciding it was unsafe to descend into compromised visibility and cloud). The point was to get that view. And so an aircraft type designed to transport passengers and cargo over large distances, at altitutde, at high thrust, was employed to conduct scenic flights for which it was not designed. It was accepted that during the middle portion of the flight the aircraft would fly low, at reduced thrust settings, with a relatively high fuel load, loitering over a harsh landscape so that passengers could attempt to view the scenery through those tiny windows... Face it, this led to the flight necessarily including a terribly compromised portion away from alternate airfields and all reasonable assistance. The scheme was not intelligently thought through. Much comment throughout the international commerial aviation industry was along those lines prior to the crash.

    It is also correct that airline navgational staff had been aware for some time of the shortcomongs of their fligh planning techniques (e.g. the Fiji incident). Some of their number were responsible for the changes made in the flight navigational systems WITHOUT informing the pilots of the alterations (who, in turn, failed to check).

    Finally, the actions of the airline management and many staff in attempting to orchestrate a cover up should not be forgotten. They purged evidence and lied. They had contributed to the disaster on so many levels through action, inaction, lazy thinking, arrogance, pride, stupidity, ignorance, systemic failures at several levels. Their actions to nail THEIR responsibilities onto the dead pilots and bury the lot wholus bolus were degenerate (and so obvious).

    Then, of course, there was the role of the politicians, including the PM...

    What a mess.

    At least QANTAS hasn't crashed a passenger flight.


    PS BTW, anyone following the latest Airbus crash profiles?

  14. The issue is not about Air New Zealand staff. It's about a corporation's efforts to make good some of the enormous damage they were primarily responsible for. At the very least this should include a genuine apology (still waiting Rob) an admission of (partial) guilt, a genuine attempt to assist those most affected by this horrible disaster. Thank you Mike for trying to help and for your very moderate response to those who don't want to understand what you're trying do.

  15. Anon

    Of course it is about airline staff. This is ALL about those guys, then and now.

    Firstly, a corporation is a fictitious legal entity (as is government, but that's another story) created for a specific purpose. It is not an individual. Tt does not think. It does not act. It is not responsible for the actions of individuals (staff).

    Second, various staff undertook actions which resulted in particular consequences. They have not been called to account for their actions (actions contributing to the crash and actions to obscure the identities of the responsible).

    Third, an apology by RF is worth little more than warm, moist breath. After all, he had nothing to do with the disaster. Nor did most of the present staff. For them there is nothing to apologise for.

    Finally, Mike tried to do something he perceived as good. He's learned not to do that again. He'd be better off using the money for a new investment or a new venture- something he's good at.


  16. LGM, thanks for your reply, very interesting. I have thought over the years that the pilots maybe placed too much faith in the computer guidance system which i imagine was primitive compared to today's.

    You said - "At least QANTAS hasn't crashed a passenger flight."

    It's been my understanding that Qantas crashed a prop driven passenger plane in the late 50's or early 60's and that their perfect record relates to the passenger jet age only. Can you confirm or deny? I haven't googled it...Lee

  17. Qantas itself (excluding TAA which it bought) had over 30 fatalities in the pre-jet era with scheduled services, more if you include delivery flights, aircraft shot down and those used for military purposes. TAA must be included too now, and it had one fatal scheduled service accident, and one fatal training flight.

    Bear in mind, in spite of Qantas being privately owned, it has effectively lobbied the Australian government to shut out Singapore Airlines from its most profit gouging route (Australia-USA), shut out Air New Zealand from its domestic market except through buying Ansett and lobby the NZ government to block the Singapore Airlines purchase of Air NZ.

    Qantas act as corporate rogues playing the "use government to shut out competition" card like anyone else.

  18. Lee S

    I should have been more specific. They (Q/TAS) have crashed some check flights and ferry flights, but they have not killed fare paying passengers in scheduled jet-airliner service. None.

    LibertyScott is correct about how they play the government card in order to shut out competitors (an excellent example of how cronyism and privelidge granting by government corrupts). Still, they aint done an Erebus yet. They do have that Airbus problem though. That one is in common with many other airlines. Will it kill? It has already. Will that happen to QANTAS? They've had a couple of frights- stay tuned.


  19. LGM - do you have any links to websites or articles on the Airbus issue?


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