Air New Zealand says it is closely monitoring a category 3 severe tropical cyclone that is barreling towards the North Island of Aotearoa, and the airline says it is making preparations to evacuate planes to safety.
Cyclone Gabrielle is currently tracking off the coast of Queensland and is forecast to slam the eastern side of Northland on Tuesday. Severe weather is expected to start causing disruption, however, from Sunday onwards.
The storm threatens the lives and livelihoods of Aucklanders just weeks after torrential rain caused widespread flooding. During that storm, Auckland Airport was forced to close after storm waters rushed through the international terminal and flooded the airfield.
Ahead of Cyclone Gabrielle, the airport says it now has plans in place “for any scenario” but warned travellers that there could be last-minute delays and cancellations.
Air New Zealand is still working through schedule changes but the airline says it is holding emergency management meetings at least twice a day and has been working with the authorities to fully understand the severity of the storm.
“We will do everything we can to limit the impact on our schedule, however, with severe winds forecast for the North Island, it’s likely we’ll need to make some changes,” the airline’s chief customer officer Leanne Geraghty said.
But on Friday, Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran warned that the airline’s schedule could be impacted further if aeroplanes need to be evacuated to safety.
“None of us are sure exactly how this will play out but we need to get prepared, we need to get prepared not just for our customers but also for out staff and also for our aeroplanes,” Foran told RNZ.
“When you start to get 50 /60 /70 knot winds and they’re coming in and hitting turbo prop planes it’s very difficult to keep those tied down so if we need to move some of those planes then that’s exactly what we need to do,” Foran continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.