Air NZ is rolling out additional flights and bigger planes to bring New Zealanders home, CEO says
Air New Zealand is running more flights and flying bigger planes on trans-Tasman routes to bring people back to Australia to their homes, chief executive Greg Foran said.
Non-quarantine travel between Australia and New Zealand was suspended for eight weeks from 11:59 p.m. Friday as an outbreak of the Covid-19 Delta variant escalates across Australia. The suspension will be reviewed after eight weeks.
New Zealanders from all Australian states and territories will return home on managed flights over the coming week.
The airline said it would continue to operate its non-quarantined services from all states except New South Wales until 11:59 p.m. on July 30 to allow people who normally resided in New Zealand to return home, without needing to go into managed isolation.
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On Friday afternoon, Air New Zealand rolled out five additional flights between New South Wales and Auckland between July 28 and August 7. They were sold out in minutes.
Foran said flights from Victoria also sold out soon after the announcement, but reassured customers that airline staff would work hard to get New Zealanders home before the closure of the seven-day window by adding more flights and piloting its larger 787-9 Dreamliner, as well as its A320 aircraft, which has done most of its trans-Tasman flights.
Air New Zealand has added two more flights from Melbourne to Auckland on Monday and Tuesday next week and will continue to add flights to its schedule as demand becomes clearer.
The airline said it was experiencing a very high volume of calls and messages. Calls to his 0800 number were down.
Customers who booked directly with the airline were encouraged to go online to change their flight or keep their fare in credit for use at a later date.
Foran said during the eight-week suspension period, approximately 100,000 trans-Tasman fares had been booked, most of which would be withheld as credit, unless they were purchased as a refundable fare. .
As of Friday afternoon, the airline still had around 4,000 seats available from Australia to New Zealand, he said.
Air New Zealand was in talks with the government over the past week, he said.
“They wanted to understand how we were operating, what we were seeing,” Foran said.
“We speculated that this could potentially happen. Our job now is to execute that decision.
It was not clear whether the eight-week suspension would be extended, but the airline was bracing for a series of scenarios, he said.
“Eight weeks is a long time for airlines facing Covid.
“As we get closer to this eight week period, what will happen next will become clearer.”
Shortly after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement, Air New Zealand released a public statement saying the suspension is expected to have a short-term operational and financial impact on its business until the bubble reopens.
The airline’s shares were down 2 cents, trading at $ 1.50 shortly before the market closed.
Foran said the affected Air New Zealand crew would be maintained and paid their base salary for eight weeks.
“We knew this was potentially the result of the bubble.”
After the eight weeks, the airline will review the situation regarding the affected personnel, he said.
Representatives of the airline board of New Zealand Executive Director Justin Tighe-Umbers said the effect of the eight-week suspension came at a time when many airline staff had just resumed their work.
“It’s difficult – it could see a lot of people handing over reduced hours and wages, or taking time off again,” Tighe-Umbers said.
Last year, Air New Zealand recalled around 200 narrow-body cabin crew members who were on leave related to Covid. Qantas and Jetstar have also brought 630 employees back to work.
Tighe-Umbers called on the government to offer wage support to parts of the sector that were going to be hardest hit until quarantine-free travel with Australia was restored, he said.
“The entire aviation industry, including airports and all services and operational support surrounding air travel, will feel the financial effects of the two-month suspension.”
Airlines were working hard to get travelers home to New Zealand within the next seven days.
“The number of New Zealanders currently in Australia is obviously increased by the fact that it is school holidays,” Tighe-Umbers said.
“These vacationers would be booked to come home for the next few days, so the rest of the week will give other people who may be visiting family and friends, or across the Tasman on business, a chance to stay. ‘advance their reservations. “
The suspension showed how important it is to distribute vaccines in both countries as quickly as possible, he said.
Vaccinated populations would allow non-quarantine travel to Australia to remain open more reliably and open up the possibility of long-haul travel, he said.
Air Chathams said Thursday it will operate a return service from Auckland to Norfolk Island to repatriate residents who usually live on Norfolk Island or Auckland.
“Only people who usually reside in either of these destinations, who return home will be eligible to travel and proof of address will be required,” the airline said in a statement.
“We are aware that this can cause uncertainty and disrupt travel plans.”
The airline will restore services to Norfolk Island when non-quarantine travel resumes, he said.
Mary-Liz Tuck, general manager of business services at Auckland International Airport, said 312,000 people had traveled back and forth across the Tasman since the start of non-quarantine travel between New Zealand and the ‘Australia April 19.
The top priority of the airport was to ensure the health and safety of passengers, she said.
“Auckland Airport supports any decision that protects our community from the spread of Covid-19.”
The recovery in international travel continued to rely on high vaccination rates in New Zealand and abroad, she said.
Flight Center NZ chief executive David Coombes said he had kept in touch with customers traveling to Australia to arrange return flights earlier as cases there escalated over the past two weeks.
Thousands of customers have booked to travel to Australia over the next eight weeks, he said.
Many customers with flexible booking options were shifting flights to vacations in the Cook Islands or the country as an alternative, he said.
Peter and Susanne Wood, who run Ski Time in Methven, said they received their first cancellation from booked Australian guests shortly after the travel bubble was announced.
Ski Time offers accommodation, a restaurant and conference facilities within an hour of Christchurch.
Susanne Wood said they expected many more cancellations.
“We were pretty full the following month because of the school holidays across the Tasman,” she said.
She said the skiing conditions at Mount Hutt have been exceptional over the past few weeks.
Peter Wood said he was surprised at the length of the suspension.
“We were thinking maybe four weeks and not expecting two months,” Wood said.
“But that will lead us to the next Queensland school vacation and the New South Wales school vacation after that, so we’re going to expect that.”