Air New Zealand waking up their 777 Boeing aircraft

Thursday 11 August 2022

Air New Zealand is bringing its first jet back from storage in an American desert, almost 700 days since it was sent there due to Covid-19 decimating international travel.

In 2020, the airline sent four of its largest planes – the 777-300ER – to a storage facility in Victorville, California, in the Mojave Desert. It was part of a wider grounding of its 777 fleet.
Now, 696 days later, the national carrier has announced it is “reanimating” the first of its desert-based jets – a process that takes six to eight weeks before the aircraft is ready for passengers.

Air New Zealand chief operating officer Alex Marren said the aircraft were being brought back sooner than expected.

"No-one could ever predict what would happen in the pandemic and now that demand has bounced back quicker than anticipated, we knew it was time to bring these aircraft back from Victorville," Marren said.

Marren explained the process of bringing an aircraft back started with a “good wash” to get rid of the desert dust and grime.

"Our engineering teams then remove the protective shrouds and materials on the wheels, sensors and wings and undertake a thorough servicing and maintenance programme to get these aircraft serviceable and ready to fly again.

"From servicing the wheels on the landing gear to checking upholstery and the inflight entertainment system within the cabin, a lot of work goes into these aircraft to make sure they are ready to welcome customers back on board."

The first aircraft will leave the Mojave facility in late August, before overnighting in Los Angeles and then returning to Auckland.

There it will undergo further maintenance before rejoining the fleet in late September.

The airline has just finished its busiest month since the pandemic began. In July, the airline relaunched 14 routes, returning to about 60% of pre-pandemic international capacity.

The airline has been busy boosting its workforce, after downsizing during the worst of the pandemic.

More than 2000 positions (a mixture of hires and rehires) have been filled, which includes more than 500 flight attendants and 150 pilots.

There are still more than 1000 vacancies that need to be filled.

"These aircraft going into service means we are rehiring more cabin crew, pilots and engineers to resource our schedule, and it has been fantastic to see people coming back into the business," Marren said.

The airline also kept three 777-300s in Auckland – two of which have already returned to service.

The third is due to rejoin the fleet shortly.

The 777-300ER is the airline's largest aircraft, with a capacity of 342 passengers.

The planes are often used on North American routes and occasionally across the Tasman.

The three remaining 777-300s in Victorville will be returned to New Zealand to rejoin the fleet over the next year. The airline has seven of the jets in total.