The latest round of Rolls-Royce engine issues continues to affect Air New Zealand’s 787 Dreamliner fleet. The airline has announced the cancellation of up to 80 international flights which could affect more than 14,000 people. The airline has said that affected engines are waiting to be serviced by Roll-Royce, but a backlog has delayed this process.

These Rolls Royce issues have plagued Air NZ since 2017 when one of their 787-9 aircraft returned to Auckland when one of its engines failed and had to be shut down. The following day another 787-9 bound for South America also had to turn back due to engine issues. It wasn’t just Air NZ affected either, with multiple airlines around the world such as ANA, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian.

Air New Zealand 787 Engine ©EV Brown
Air New Zealand has been forced to ground as many as five 787-9s at any one time during the whole saga and had been operating lease aircraft to minimise the impact on customers. These leased aircraft had received a lot of negative feedback as the cabin experience wasn’t modern and as pleasant as Air NZ’s 787’s. These leased aircraft came originally from HiFly (an A330 and A340) but then replaced by a 777-200ER from Boeing (Ex Singapore Airlines) and a 777-300ER from Star Alliance partner EVA Air.

In 2018 Europe’s air-safety regulator ordered airlines that operate Trent 1000 engines known as ‘Package C’ to carry out earlier than usual maintenance checks on the engine. Rolls-Royce said at the time 380 engines globally were impacted by the directive, including nine in the Air NZ 787 fleet.

The latest wave of engine issues following on from the past two years has meant that Air NZ has had to cancel multiple flights over the Christmas period. They have cancelled their seasonal Christchurch to Perth service, cancelled their second daily Auckland to Perth service, and other services such as Auckland to Sydney and Auckland to Tonga also being affected.

The airline said Rolls-Royce required operators of the engines to carry out more frequent maintenance due to an issue with the engine’s high-pressure turbine blades.

“Rolls-Royce does not have any replacement engines available while maintenance work is undertaken and has advised Air New Zealand there’s a significant wait for repair services,” the airline said.

Air New Zealand spokesman Doug Grant said about 14,000 customers would be impacted by cancellations.

“Going into the holiday season we’re acutely aware how important travel is to our customers, and our schedule changes are designed to keep cancellations to a minimum,”

Grant said while the airline never expected to still be facing issues with its Rolls-Royce engines, it was well placed to operate with the least impact to customers.

The airline would start processing changes to customers’ bookings this week and then directly contact customers affected by these changes with new travel information.

Image © EV Brown, Bernie Leighton and Rolls-Royce

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