Air New Zealand will maintain a minimal international schedule through to 30 June 2021 despite hope vaccines could end the COVID crisis sooner.
The business said low demand and ongoing travel restrictions were behind the decision that includes flying to LA just twice a week, compared with five times a week in May 2020.
Air New Zealand’s general manager of networks, Scott Carr, also said the airline has been working hard to negotiate with airports to retain their take-off and landing slots, which often operate on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis.
“We have been waiting to receive slot alleviation for the April to end of June period, which means our regular slot times are protected even if we can’t fly them all,” said Carr. “As this is now progressing, we are now able to move ahead with adapting our schedule through to 30 June to better reflect the low demand environment we are currently operating in.
“We understand these are very uncertain times and it can be tricky for people looking to get home with a lot of things needing to line up including flights, testing and managed isolation bookings.
“We feel a responsibility to ensure Kiwis can come home and are doing our best to make this happen as smoothly as possible. We strongly recommend customers check government border restrictions for the relevant countries and/or individual passport requirements before booking a ticket.”
It follows the government introducing a new system forcing returnees to acquire a ‘voucher’ for a quarantine room, or else be turned away from flights at check-in.
The airline responded to the new rules regarding the so-called Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS) by offering passengers the chance to rebook a flight for free if they were caught out by the changes.
The announcement of the inbound booking ban comes after the airline first temporarily instigated the measure in July.
The approach also appears to contradict that of Qantas, which is controversially gearing up to restart its entire international schedule in July. The surprise decision came despite October’s federal budget revealing the government isn’t planning for international travel to return until the latter part of 2021.
It was later slapped down by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who issued a terse statement arguing that “decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian government”.