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Air NZ CEO recognises 'poor judgement' in helping Saudi military, but says work will continue

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran says “poor judgment” was involved when the national carrier signed off to help the Saudi Arabian military by working on its marine engines.

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Greg Foran says the deal was signed off below executive level in 2019, before he took charge of the national carrier. Source: 1 NEWS

However, Foran says work will continue on the engines, which are currently in pieces at Auckland Airport.

“We are on the verge of completing it,” he told Breakfast this morning.

“We will pick up the pieces that need to be picked up on the engine that still needs to be completed and get that back.

“We’ve got an engine that is in some pieces on the floor so we need to get that back in a condition that we can get that back to them. Now, we’ll work through exactly what that process is and how that looks like, but the job is not completely finished, so we’ll work through what that looks like at this point.”

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An Air NZ team has been repairing engines on Saudi navy vessels, despite the military fuelling a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Source: 1 NEWS

Last night, 1 NEWS reporter Benedict Collins exclusively revealed Air New Zealand had been helping the Saudi Arabian military despite the nation fuelling a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

An investigation found that the national airline's business unit, Gas Turbines, which specialises in servicing military marine engines and turbines, has been supporting the Saudi Navy.

The Saudi Navy has been blockading Yemen — stopping food and medicine getting through to the country. The United Nations believes five million civilians in Yemen are "one step away" from famine.

However, for nearly eight weeks, Air New Zealand had refused to answer 1 NEWS' questions about its activities with Saudi Arabia.

This morning, Foran said he’d only been personally made aware of the situation 10 days ago, and that he took “immediate action”.

“It has been suggested that we’ve been involved in some type of secret deal here and I can assure you that is not the case. It is a case of poor judgment,” he said.

“We continue to work through the process to make sure that we have much better visibility on these things going forward.”

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1 NEWS’ Benedict Collins says there are more answers needed after he revealed the national carrier was secretly helping the military despite a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Source: Breakfast

Foran said the $3 million contract was first arranged through a third party in 2019, before he stepped into the CEO role, and because of the value of it, it was signed off at a level in the business which never reached the executives table.

“Like many businesses, these things get signed off further down. We’ll be conducting a review of this particular process and make sure that we do have in place the right processes and procedures so we get this right.”

Air New Zealand deals with navies from around the world, particularly Australia and the United States.

When asked how many military contracts the airline currently has in operation, Foran said it was something company officials were digging into.

“I’m happy to be transparent around where we’re working and what we’re doing,” he said.