Another massive earthquake struck New Zealand today, again centered near Christchurch. 65 are reported dead and hundreds are missing. The 6.3 magnitude quake struck at midday, at a time when many were out and about.
When natural disasters occur, it is natural to look toward the government for assistance, and it is nice when the government has an airline at its disposal (the New Zealand government holds a 76% interest in Air New Zealand). Yet it would be unfair to label Air New Zealand's display of corproate responsiblity as simply a government-mandated relief effort.
Air New Zealand will run an extra Boeing 747 between Auckland and Christchurch tomorrow to meet the needs of family, friends, and emergency workers as well as an extra A320 flight between Christchurch and Wellington. The airline is also offering "compassionate" fares to/from Christchurch for the immediate family members of those affected from the quake.
Ticket prices are extremely low:
- All Tasman and Pacific Island fares - NZD50 one/way (plus tax)
- All long haul fares, NZD400 one/way (plus tax)
Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand's CEO, and many others from the company have arrived in Christchurch to aid in the relief efforts--many employees are volunteering their time. While the government may own a large chunk of Air New Zealand, the airline's primary goal is to make a profit and it was the airline's decision--a voluntary choice--to add the extra flights and offer the special fares. For that, Air New Zealand merits my praise.
Airlines can do a tremendous amount of good during a natural disaster, and they certainly do not have to be government-owned to lend a helping hand--look no further than United Airlines' charter flights to Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the devesating quake in Haiti.
We never look forward to earthquakes or other natural disasters, but they can serve to bring about the best among us--including our corporations.