Air New Zealand Group General Manager International Airline Ed Sims says the airline will employ up to 90 concierge staff, who will be dedicated to making every customer journey before, during and after an Air New Zealand service a special event.

Mr Sims says he's not aware of any other airline in the world offering such a service, which will provide Air New Zealand with a significant point of difference over its international competitors.

"International Airline Concierges will be a combination of travel advisers, disrupt managers, loyalty experts and destinational experts, focused on supporting every customer travelling with us," he says.

Their duties could include escorting passengers to and from the aircraft, recommending "must-do" Kiwi activities to tourists, assisting customers with onward bookings, supporting customers affected by a weather disruption, advising passengers on managing their Airpoints, or talking through the finer points of customers' in-flight wine selections.

The new service will be launched from April next year, with the first international services to have concierges on board expected to include those between Auckland and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Hong Kong.

Tourism Minister Damien O'Connor today said the new service is very innovative.

"I applaud this new move. Air New Zealand will lead the world in in-flight service and enhance the value of a New Zealand holiday experience for visitors and the tourism industry."

Simon Calder, travel editor of The Independent of London, also welcomed the announcement.

"What an innovative concept: my own in-flight travel guru. Like every visitor to New Zealand, the friendliness of the people shines through even more strongly than the loveliness of the landscape, so I relish the prospect of being able to meet an ambassador for the country at 40.000 feet - who can tip me off about the great secrets of New Zealand that I have yet to discover."

Mr Sims says that as international recognition of Air New Zealand's world-class long-haul product has grown over the past two years, so too has the number of customers choosing the airline for services to, from and within New Zealand.

The significant growth in demand has in turn created its own challenges, he says.

"A number of cabin crew have told us that it's increasingly difficult for them to spend as much time as they'd like with each customer due to our full cabins," he says.

"This brand-new concierge role will ensure that every one travelling with Air New Zealand - no matter how full the aircraft - receives the personal attention they deserve and the advice they need."

Mr Sims says the concierge initiative has grown from feedback from Air New Zealand cabin crew and customers over the past two years, and is a natural complement to the airline's award-winning long-haul product and service.

"We're constantly looking at new ways to deliver our customers a uniquely Kiwi experience at every stage of their journey, and the best way to do that is through our people. Air New Zealanders are our competitive advantage."

Mr Sims says people working in the new role will very much be New Zealand ambassadors, as well as experts in the regions to which they fly.

The International Airline Concierge position will be advertised from 13 December and Mr Sims says he expects to draw from a wide pool of talent in New Zealand - from talented Air New Zealanders to people working in services and hospitality industries or the tourism sector.

The majority of the roles will be New Zealand based, although a small number of staff will operate out of the Shanghai and London crew bases.

ENDS

Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs. Phone 09 336 2761

For more information:

Tracey Palmer
Corporate Communications Manager
Air New Zealand
Tel 09 336 3179
021 628 129
Tracey.palmer@airnz.co.nz

NOTE: The content of all Air New Zealand media releases are accurate at the time of issue, as stated at the top of each release. For updates on any changes, please contact Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is proud to be a member of Star Alliance. The Star Alliance network was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to offer worldwide reach, recognition and seamless service to the international traveller. Its acceptance by the market has been recognised by numerous awards, including the Air Transport World Market Leadership Award, Best Airline Alliance by both Business Traveller Magazine and Skytrax. The member airlines are: Adria Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, bmi, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI, United and US Airways. Aegean Airlines, Air India, Brussels Airlines and TAM have been announced as future members. Overall, the Star Alliance network offers 19,500 daily flights to 1,071 airports in 171 countries.

For more information about Air New Zealand visit www.airnewzealand.com and for more information about Star Alliance visit www.staralliance.com.