Covid 19 coronavirus: What alert level extension means for air travel


Air New Zealand will slash its domestic flights through Auckland next week following the announcement alert levels around the country will stay in place for 12 days longer.

The continuation of level three in Auckland and level two for the rest of the country for a full two weeks means the number of passengers the airline can carry will fall further.

The airline says it ”will endeavour” to operate its current schedule as planned throughout the weekend and on Monday August 17 to allow people seeking to return home to do so.

From Tuesday it will operate a reduced domestic schedule to and from Auckland.

There will be 13 weekly returns to Christchurch, 3 to Gisborne, 7 to Kerikeri, 3 to Napier, 3 to Palmerston North, 3 to Tauranga, 7 to Wellington and 7 to Whangarei.

The remainder of the network – which is under level 2 – is unchanged.

Air New Zealand said this evening that anyone affected by the alert level changes can have their booking held in credit to use towards future travel.

”If you hold a ticket for any domestic flight scheduled to depart before 11.59pm on Wednesday, August 26, you may opt to hold your fare in credit,” the airline says on its website.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said the airline has seen significantly reduced demand in recent days.

“While there will be a reduction in flying to and from Auckland, there will be some flights available to support essential travel. The rest of our domestic network will operate as normal under alert level 2 – with physical distancing in place, and we are updating our schedule to reflect this, he said.

“We’ve seen many Kiwis choose to no longer travel over the past few days and we’d like to thank those who have cancelled or changed their tickets in advance as this has helped us to get other customers home.”

It is a further blow for the aviation sector which had been enjoying a rapid bounce back in domestic travel for the past three months. Air NZ was heading towards operating at 80 per cent capacity compared to last year and Jetstar was at 90 per cent on its main trunk jet routes.

The airline says its call centre is currently experiencing a high volume of calls and messages. It is urging anyone not intending to travel to use the online booking tool to opt-in for a credit.

It allows the airline to proactively ensure physical distancing is possible in aircraft and for other customers who need to travel to do so.

Earlier this week Air New Zealand made mask-wearing compulsory on all flights out of Auckland.

For the duration of the change in alert levels, Air New Zealand’s front of house employees and domestic cabin crew will wear masks and gloves, and pilots will wear masks when interacting with customers or walking through the terminal.

In further advice tonight the airline said:

• Customers are encouraged to check in for their flight via the Air New Zealand app, and allow extra time to process through check-in and security

• For those checking in at larger airports, every second self-service kiosk will be operating to support social distancing. There will also be floor markers for queuing at check-in counters, service desks, bag drops and departure gates, and fewer customers will be boarded and disembarked at a time

• Inflight, seating will be allocated to allow an empty seat between customers travelling alone. The airline will aim to keep families and some travelling companions together, so there may be some people sitting together with no additional space between them

• Food and beverage services on all domestic flights will not be available to minimise contact between customers and cabin crew. Customers should let cabin crew know if they would like a cup of water

•Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounges and valet parking remain closed

Air New Zealand recommended its customers travelling from other ports also wear masks, however this was not a requirement.

Jetstar, which earlier this week warned of cancellations, is likely to adjust its schedule.

Under level 3, inter-regional travel is highly limited to, for example, essential workers, with limited exemptions for others, according to Government rules. Most Air NZ flights are through its main Auckland hub.

 Jetstar had rapidly rebuilt its domestic network to 90 per cent of last year. Photo / Supplied
Jetstar had rapidly rebuilt its domestic network to 90 per cent of last year. Photo / Supplied

Earlier this week the Aviation Coalition put out the following guidelines for air travel under the alert levels imposed on Tuesday night which will now continue. They are:

• You can fly into Auckland on a domestic flight if you are returning home, an essential worker or are coming to Auckland to undertake an essential service
•You can travel in Auckland to catch an international flight departing from Auckland Airport
• You can also transit through Auckland Airport to catch an outbound international flight
•You can transit through Auckland Airport domestically on flights, but must not leave at Auckland unless you live in Auckland or are undertaking essential travel
•You can leave on a departing flight out of Auckland Airport if you are travelling home or are leaving to undertake an essential service.
• Non-Auckland residents using the Auckland Airport will need a valid ticket or itinerary to travel.
• The limited number of international flights will continue. New inbound bookings have been on hold for weeks due to pressure on isolation facilities and Air New Zealand this week continued a freeze on new bookings to Australia because of inbound limits through airports there.

Airports say physical distancing of two metres will be implemented at airports, including those which are only on level 2 restriction.

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