Air New Zealand has announced it will reduce services to and from Auckland after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended the city’s lockdown.
The airline also said it had seen “significantly reduced demand” in recent days but that its network outside of the capital would maintain its existing schedule, albeit with social distancing introduced.
On Tuesday, PM Ardern announced the Auckland region would re-enter an ‘alert level 3’ lockdown for three days due to four new COVID-19 cases being identified, with people back to working from home and gatherings of more than 10 people banned.
The rest of the country was moved into lighter ‘alert level 2’ restrictions, which limited mass gatherings to 100 people and saw the return of social distancing.
Finally, on Friday, PM Ardern confirmed rumours the lockdown would be extended until Thursday, 27 August in Auckland.
In response, the national carrier said it would maintain its existing Auckland schedule until Monday, 17 August but would then operate a reduced domestic schedule:
Number of weekly returns to and from Auckland
- Christchurch – 13
- Gisborne – 3
- Kerikeri – 7
- Napier – 3
- Palmerston North – 3
- Tauranga – 3
- Wellington – 7
- Whangarei – 7
“While there will be a reduction in flying to and from Auckland, there will be some flights available to support essential travel,” said chief executive Greg Foran.
“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.
“We are also extending fare flexibility introduced on Wednesday up until 11:59pm Thursday, 27 August. Customers who hold a ticket for a domestic flight up until this date may opt to hold their fare in credit and can do this via the airline’s online booking tool.”
On Wednesday, Australian Aviation reported that Air New Zealand will now for the first time force all passengers departing Auckland to wear masks.
Seats will now be kept free between travelling groups, food and drink will not be served on board, and lounges and valet parking will close.
Previously, during the height of the pandemic in April, the airline’s staff wore masks but passengers were not required to.
Recently, the business has said customers are simply “welcome to bring” their own. In contrast, Auckland Airport itself has said the wearing of masks isn’t mandatory in the terminal but simply “strongly recommended”.
Local publication Stuff previously reported that the national advice around face masks for air travel was that they were neither required nor discouraged.
Air New Zealand’s other changes include:
- Asking all of its front of house employees to wear gloves and masks;
- Closing every second check-in kiosk at larger airports;
- Reinstating social distancing at check-in desks via floor stickers;
- Keeping middle seats free between groups;
- Slowing down boarding and disembarking;
- Removing in-flight magazine Kia Ora;
- Shutting lounges and valet parking;
- Stopping food and beverage services; and
- Stopping the distribution of in-flight lollies.