By Cailey Rizzo
November 18, 2019
Air New Zealand plane
Credit: DANIEL SLIM/Getty Images

Thousands of travelers will have to reconsider their flight plans after Air New Zealand announced changes to its international schedule during peak holiday time.

Due to engine issues on some Boeing 787-9 aircraft, Air New Zealand has canceled a number of international flights from December 10 until January 5, 2020 which will impact up to to 14,000 travelers.

"Based on the maintenance needs of our engines, we expect some will need to be inspected in December and January and then serviced by Rolls-Royce offshore and unfortunately, Rolls-Royce has no capacity to alleviate this pressure,” Air New Zealand Senior Fleet Manager 787 Captain Dave Wilson said in a statement on Sunday.

The affected flights are between New Zealand and Australia. The airline is temporarily suspending service of its twice-weekly seasonal service between Christchurch and Perth. Flights between Auckland and Perth and Auckland and Sydney are also canceled.

The airline said it will directly contact passengers who have been affected by the cancellations to arrange alternate travel. Passengers who believe their flight might be canceled should check the “Travel Alerts” section of the Air New Zealand website for more information.

The airline has 14 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft in its fleet and four spare engines. However, all the spare engines are currently with Rolls Royce, undergoing or waiting for maintenance.

The engines in question are Trent 1000s and the issue is potentially quite serious. The engine has been installed on Dreamliner aircraft since 2011, but in 2016 it was found that the engine’s blades were prone to corrosion and cracking. Over the past few years, Rolls-Royce has developed a replacement program to fix the engines. But in September, Reuters reported that the company was facing delays in engine repair.

In 2017, the blades aboard an Air New Zealand flight to Tokyo failed and caused an engine shutdown aboard the Boeing 787. There was another engine issue the following day, which prompted the airline to cease operations and send its engines to Singapore for repairs.