Air New Zealand Group General Manager International Airline Ed Sims has today been in direct contact with the head of the search and rescue operation in Perpignan.

Mr Sims said the operation had continued during the night with up to 75 personnel actively involved, with a focus on recovering bodies, locating the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, and recovering debris that may be useful for the investigation.

Signals had been located for the two flight recorders but they had not yet been recovered. The search and rescue team had a real urgency to retrieving these today as weather conditions were forecast to worsen overnight, Mr Sims said.

Mr Sims said that flags at Air New Zealand locations were flying at half-mast as a mark of respect following news from the French authorities that there was no realistic change of survivors.

"The airline will be immeasurably poorer for the loss of our colleagues, and we again express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who have been lost."

Condolence books will also be made available to Air New Zealanders from this afternoon, to allow staff to express their feelings for their colleagues Captain Brian Horrell, Michael Gyles, Noel Marsh and Murray White, who were onboard.

Mr Sims this morning briefed Transport Minister Stephen Joyce who has undertaken to keep Prime Minister John Key informed.

Air New Zealand Rob Fyfe, who is en-route to Perpignan, has also been kept abreast of developments while travelling. Air New Zealand has team of London-based staff in Perpignan to provide on the ground support to the operation.

Due to the difference in time zones, with Europe now entering late evening, Air New Zealand does not expect to provide further updates until 8pm tonight.

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.

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