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Mount Cook Airline expects to have another three of its ATR72-500 aircraft back in the air tomorrow following an inspection of its full fleet of 11 aircraft.
General Manager Sarah Williamson said the airline is today operating approximately two thirds of its normal seat capacity, with two ATR aircraft in service and additional flying from several jets from the Air New Zealand fleet.
Ms Williamson says with the additional aircraft expected to return to the fleet tomorrow Mount Cook would have five of its 68-seat aircraft flying. A further two aircraft are expected to be back in service by Thursday.
One aircraft remains in the hanger for pre-planned maintenance and at this stage three aircraft require closer examination. This will be carried out in conjunction with aircraft manufacturer ATR, who are working around the clock to assist.
"Mount Cook will today service (at least once) all of its usual ports except Napier and we are putting on additional capacity. However, Napier will still be serviced by the regular Air Nelson services."
Additional jet services are operating on a number of sectors with high passenger loadings to minimise the impact on customers. Routes being serviced by jets include those between Wellington-Dunedin, Christchurch-Hamilton, Christchurch-Wellington, Christchurch-Dunedin and Christchurch-Queenstown.
Around 2000 customers are likely to be affected by today's cancellations, with 3000 affected on Sunday. Customers whose flights have been cancelled today are being contacted where possible and alternative arrangements made for them, including free-of-charge ticket changes.
Air New Zealand recommends that customers who are booked to fly on Mount Cook services should visit the Air New Zealand website www.airnewzealand.co.nz
The ATR72-500 aircraft have been in service with Mount Cook since 1999 and have an average age of 10.9 years. The 68-seat aircraft operates to 10 destinations around New Zealand.
Ms Williamson apologised to customers affected by today's cancellations.
"We appreciate the significant inconvenience this has caused for our customers and would like to assure that them we are working as quickly and thoroughly as we can to get our aircraft back flying," she said.
"However the safety of our customers, our staff and our aircraft is paramount and non-negotiable for Mount Cook and Air New Zealand."