Like all (well, I’d assumed all) Kiwis, I was impressed and moved by the compassion that our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has shown during the Coronavirus crisis – while being clear and emphatic in her decisions, she also finds time to ensure we remember the people being impacted. Naively, however, I thought her message had gotten through. Not so.

I’ve spent the last 15 years or so travelling extensively all around the world. In some years my work saw me flying over 300,000 miles per annum.

As such a frequent flier, most of it with Air New Zealand, I have enjoyed the benefits of their status programme – be it with upgrades, great food, lovely wines or the personal touch from Air New Zealand’s incredible staff. I’ve waxed poetic about the pride that everyone in New Zealand should feel for our airline – while we can quibble about safety videos (OK, the rap one was a mistake) and the odd customer service blunder, all in all, Air New Zealand is an incredible ambassador for us and our country.

As a frequent flier, I’m a sometimes visiter to FlyerTalk, a forum site for people with a penchant for flying and a fascination with the aviation sector – it’s a good place to ask questions (“where can I have a shower at Singapore airport,” or “how much time do I need to do some sightseeing during a layover at Chicago O’Hare?” for example). This morning, since I’d just read an article about the aviation sector, I went over to FlyerTalk to see what the buzz was.

Naively, I thought people would mainly be talking about the human cost of the crisis (ie the massive number of jobs that will be lost – directly and indirectly – from the resultant downturn). Not so, unfortunately. Reading through a few of the posts I was struck by the incredible self-interest and lack of compassion on offer. A number of members primary concern seemed to be whether their frequent flier status would be extended – their precious privileges being more important, of course than peoples’ jobs.

And then there were the posts from people who have some leisure travel booked in June and are incensed that Air New Zealand hasn’t personally communicated with them as yet. Think about it, people. The airline overnight cut its capacity by around 85%. It saw it’s predicted revenue drop to, at best, ten percent of what it was a year ago, and it came to the realization that at least a third of its staff are now surplus to requirements.

Entitled frequent fliers, your self-interest and lack of compassion is obscene. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

The final word goes out to those thousands of Air New Zealand staff who are going to be affected by this – stay tough and thank you for all that you’ve done for our airline. Kia kaha.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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