‘We have fallen short:’ Air NZ chair Therese Walsh apologises to MPs for ‘Saudi issue’

Air New Zealand’s top bosses have apologised to MPs for what chairwoman Therese Walsh this morning described as the “Saudi issue”.

“I’ll be very clear, we have fallen short,” she said this morning.

The fact that an Air NZ subsidiary had a contract with the Saudi military was “not acceptable” to her or to chief executive Greg Foran.

“I apologise, on behalf of Air NZ, that this has occurred.”

Earlier this week, it was revealed Gas Turbines – a subsidiary of Air NZ – had been servicing military marine engines and turbines for the Saudi military.

This is despite the Saudi military’s role in the bloody war in Yemen – a war which has devastated the country and pushed it to the brink of famine.

The day after news of Air New Zealand’s ties to the Saudi military was revealed, Foran announced that the contract had been terminated.

This morning, Walsh said PwC was carrying out a review of what happened and to make sure it never happens again.

But at this stage, she said she understands that the airline has no other contracts with the Saudi military.

Asked by National MP Mark Mitchell why it took so long to respond to media enquiries, Foran said the issue was initially handled by a junior member of Air NZ’s media team.

Foran said he was not aware of the issue until 12 days ago, despite the issue first being raised in December.

“Once I heard about it, immediate action.”

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman – who was swapped onto the committee to grill Air NZ’s top brass – questioned the dates of the contracts.

Foran said the first contract was signed May 2019 – that was when former Air NZ boss and now National MP Chris Luxon was in charge.

But Foran said that this would not have come across Luxon’s desk and he said he would not have expected it to have come across his if he was in charge when the contract began.

As the contract was less than $3 million, Foran said it wouldn’t have been in one of his reports.

But Air NZ are looking at this process – “we need to tighten up that procedure”.

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