Air New Zealand has confirmed masks will now be mandatory on all flights after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Kiwis to wear them on public transport.
The airline also said on Friday morning it will resume flying all of its Auckland routes when the region exits its second lockdown on Monday and shifts to lighter ‘alert level 2’ restrictions, which incorporate social distancing.
Earlier in August, Air New Zealand updated its advice to force all passengers departing Auckland only to wear masks. That move itself was a radical departure for the airline, which previously had one of the most relaxed attitudes in the world towards wearing face coverings – in June passengers were only told they were “welcome to bring” their own.
From Monday, all of New Zealand will be subject to ‘alert level 2’ restrictions, which means the business will keep seats between groups of passengers free.
Chief executive Greg Foran said, “Physical distancing means we can only sell just under 50 per cent of seats on a turboprop aircraft and just 65 per cent on an A320, which also means we won’t be able to offer our lowest lead-in fares until physical distancing measures are removed.
“This has put huge pressure on our business as it means we need to move some of our customers to other flights. We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding while we work through these changes.
“When it comes to face coverings, this has been a requirement for those flying out of Auckland during alert level 3 and our customers have been really cooperative to date.
“We support the government’s move to mandate the wearing of face coverings on public transport at alert level 2 from next week.
“All Air New Zealand domestic cabin crew and front of house employees will be wearing masks and gloves, and pilots will wear masks when interacting with customers or moving through airport terminals.”
Other social distancing requirements mean the airline will now only open every second self-service kiosk at larger airports and floor markings will return.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister 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.
The measures were later extended multiple times but Auckland’s lockdown will now officially end on Monday.
Earlier this month, Australian Aviation reported how Air New Zealand staff on layover at “high-risk destinations” such as LA are now being asked to stay in their rooms and not visit the hotel restaurant.