We answer Air New Zealands big 5 questions: What the airline can do better
OPINION: We're pretty lucky to be served by one of the best airlines in the world. But that doesn't mean a few things could improve.
Air New Zealand's new boss has asked his 12,500 staff what the airline could do better, in a five-question survey.
Greg Foran has arrived in New Zealand to run the airline, after heading up the United States operation of Walmart. While the Kiwi-born CEO waits for his staff to reply, here are a few suggestions of my own.
1. What is the most important thing we could do to consistently improve our customer service?
Two words: the regions. An older relative needs to fly from Tauranga to Whangārei for a family engagement this weekend and drive, so flying is the best option. The late-notice fare is almost $800 return. It is $15 cheaper to head from Auckland to Sydney for the weekend.
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I completely understand the economics of charging that much - like any business Air New Zealand needs to maximise profitability. But there is a perception from some - rightly or wrongly - that the regions don't get a fair deal. And that's only been exacerbated since Jetstar's regional demise.
I stayed at a winery in Hawke's Bay recently and staff were concerned about a drop-off in clients, fearing last-minute holidaymakers wouldn't fork out for Air New Zealand's fares.
I can see the point, a return fare from Auckland to Hawke's Bay this weekend is $605, including bags.
Air New Zealand needs to walk the unenviable tightrope of being a monopoly operator on routes, but at the same time, not be seen to take advantage of that.
Secondly, airline food is pretty average in economy. This, of course, isn't an issue confined to Air New Zealand. Worldwide airlines seem content to feed us what amounts to flash hospital food. It's 2020 - surely it's time for some truly delicious food in the skies.
The national carrier is world-leading in so many aspects of its business, and it's time to apply that innovation to its food offering.
2. Where does Air New Zealand waste money that could be better spent serving our customers?
Airports, through no fault of its own. Every time a passenger passes through Auckland's international terminal, more than $23 is charged by the airport as a passenger service fee. That's passed onto us, in higher ticket prices and is almost double the fee charged at Christchurch's international terminal.
Air New Zealand has long argued Auckland's prices are too high for the level of service the airport provides. The airport argues its making record investment to build facilities that can cope with 40 million passengers.
Interestingly, Wellington Airport is the most expensive domestic main truck airport, despite being tiny and overcrowded.
Air New Zealand is pushing for the Government to consider opening up Whenuapai Airbase for commercial flights, which would provide Auckland much-needed competition. There would also be an added benefit of potentially attracting low-cost carriers. Of the top 20 markets in Asia-Pacific, New Zealand has the lowest penetration of low-cost airlines - with only Jetstar serving our shores.
3. What do you like most about the Air New Zealand culture that you want to preserve?
There's a lot I love about the national airline. The crew are friendly, passionate advocates of New Zealand, who remind you every time you step aboard that we are so blessed to live in Aotearoa.
We also need to recognise the culture of innovation at the airline. From self-serve check-in, to Sky Couches, to being able to order a coffee at the Koru Club on your phone - airlines around the world spend a fair amount of the time copying Air New Zealand. That's a pretty remarkable achievement given we're a tiny country, the population of Melbourne.
4. If you could change one thing about the culture, what would that be?
Last year, Air New Zealand congratulated its new captains with a photo in its Kia Ora magazine. There were 45 smiling men.
The airline is actively working on attracting more female pilots, but it's a complicated issue that starts at high schools and flight schools, something the airline has little control over.
I recently had a female captain give her introduction in Te Reo, before translating to English. Isn't that wonderfully Kiwi; more of that, please.
5. What opportunities do you see for us to grow our revenue and profitability?
If you look across the Tasman, Qantas has a golden goose - and it doesn't even fly: the Qantas Frequent Flyer programme.
The figures are pretty startling; the airline's loyalty branch is more profitable that its international division, and even budget off-shoot Jetstar.
Last year its frequent flyer programme brought in $374 million for the airline, and to be honest, I don't even think the programme is that user-friendly.
Air New Zealand's Airpoints programme, by contrast, is so simple. Your rewards convert straight to dollars. With Qantas, I have 21,349 points - which is meaningless.
The Airpoints scheme is popular, with more than 900,000 reward flights and 127,000 upgrades issued in 2018.
Like Qantas, Air New Zealand sells its Airpoints to places like banks and retailers so they can attract customers. But surely there is scope to extend this to every aspect of our retail lives.
I think part of the problem is that the accrual is so tiny. For example, at New World, you earn 18.5 Airpoints cents for every $25 you spend. Fork out $150 in grocery shopping, and you'll earn 1.11 Airpoints Dollars.
I'll see you in 2052, Sydney.
What's your feedback on the questions that were sent to Air New Zealand staff? What do you love about Air New Zealand and what could improve? Let us know in the comments below.
Source : Stuff.co.nz