By Jamie Freed and Alistair Smout
(Reuters) - Air New Zealand Ltd became the latest airline to suffer from problems with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, saying on Thursday that "two recent events" had prompted it to cancel or delay some flights over the coming weeks.
Engines on its Boeing Co 787-9 jets would now require early maintenance, it said, without giving details of the events, or the number of planes and flights involved.
Rolls-Royce told investors in August that 400 to 500 Trent 1000 engines were affected by problems with components wearing out earlier than expected, according to a conference call transcript.
The shorter lifespans of the engines are creating a supply shortage in the industry which is also affecting British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
The New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission said it was investigating two events involving "engine abnormalities" on Air New Zealand aircraft this week.
The Aviation Herald reported on Tuesday that an Auckland-Tokyo flight had returned to its base after take-off due to an engine problem, while plane tracking website FlightRadar24 said a flight to Buenos Aires had returned to Auckland on Wednesday.
Air New Zealand said Rolls-Royce did not have spare engines available while the maintenance work was being undertaken, meaning it would be focussed on finding replacement aircraft capacity.
Virgin Atlantic said on Thursday it planned to lease up to four A330-200 aircraft for at least 12 months from March 2018, to keep passengers flying while it parked some Boeing 787s, in light of the shortage of engines.
It said it would still offer a full flight schedule, and Delta, which has taken over routes from London to New York and Atlanta, would continue to operate these until the end of February.
British Airways said it was carrying out precautionary inspections on its Trent 1000 engines.
"To facilitate the engine inspections we have had to make some minor schedule adjustments and are rebooking customers onto alternative services or offering them a refund," the airline said in a statement.
Rolls-Royce said it was working with Air New Zealand and other airlines to minimise disruption and restore full flight operations as soon as possible.
"It's not uncommon for long-term engine programmes to experience technical issues during their life and we manage them through proactive maintenance," a Rolls-Royce spokeswoman said.
Air New Zealand said it did not anticipate any change to current earnings guidance at this stage.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed and Alistair Smout; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Mark Potter)