Group General Manager International Airline Ed Sims says rescue authorities have told the airline it appears the aircraft broke up on impact and there was no realistic chance of survivors.

"This is devastating news for the families and all Air New Zealanders as we had all been clinging on to hope. Sadly, rescue authorities have told us that all evidence on site indicates that given the nature of the impact there is no chance of survivors. Debris is spread over a large area and it appears the aircraft is not in large pieces as originally indicated by those who saw the impact," Mr Sims says.

"Air New Zealand support teams are currently with the families of each of our staff who were on board the aircraft. We have reaffirmed the opportunity for any family and friends to travel to Perpignan and at this stage four members of one of our staff on board will be travelling there this evening."

Mr Sims says Air New Zealand would like to thank the French search and rescue authorities for the extraordinary efforts they have made in difficult conditions.

"More than 150 searchers, five boats and aircraft have been involved in the rescue effort. No effort or expense has been spared. The French authorities have been outstanding in their support and we have nothing but admiration for their efforts."

Mr Sims says the airline extends its sympathies to the family of the Civil Aviation Authority's Jeremy Cook, who was an observer on the pre-acceptance flight, and the two German pilots of the aircraft.

Ends

Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs.

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.