Air New Zealand has announced a number of dedicated new flights to repatriate its citizens trapped in Sydney’s lockdown, as the trans-Tasman bubble pause continues for NSW.
From 10am Monday, New Zealanders trapped in Sydney’s lockdown will be able to book seats on repatriation flights to Auckland and Christchurch, with the first flight scheduled as soon as Tuesday, 13 July.
Repatriated New Zealanders will be required to go into mandatory quarantine once they arrive, and thus the number of available seats on flights will be dictated by how many spaces are available in the country’s government-run managed isolation facilities (MIQ).
According to Air New Zealand, when booking a ‘managed return’ seat on a repatriation flight, customers will automatically have their MIQ place confirmed.
When more MIQ allocations are provided, more seats will be made available for booking, according to the airline.
“We would love to be able to bring more Kiwis home to their families, but we’re limited by the availability of MIQ spots,” said Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanna Geraghty.
“Only between 40-60 seats per flight will be available to be booked by customers as these are directly linked to MIQ spots.
“Flights will be available on a first in, first served basis.”
Currently, Air New Zealand has nine repatriation flights scheduled between 13 and 23 July. Of these flights, two fly into Christchurch, while the remaining all arrive in Auckland.
Geraghty added that around 20 per cent of all MIQ allocations will be reserved for cases on compassionate grounds, which is managed through the New Zealand government.
Customers wishing to apply for compassionate grounds must do so via the government directly, the airline said.
“Our teams have worked tirelessly with the government over the weekend to get these managed return flights up and running so we can reconnect Kiwis with their loved ones,” she said.
“We recognise this is a very stressful and emotional time for those customers wishing to return from NSW, and we’re doing everything we can to get them home as quickly and as safely as possible.”
The news comes just days after New Zealand re-started its quarantine-free trans-Tasman arrangement with much of Australia on 5 July, however passengers will now be required to take a pre-flight COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure.
The arrangement currently applies to flights from SA, ACT, Tasmania and Victoria, while flights from NSW, Queensland and WA remain on pause following state lockdowns.
The introduction of pre-flight testing is a significant change to the arrangement and mirrors similar arrangements introduced in countries such as the UK and EU.
It is not yet known how long the additional restrictions will last, or when the bubble will open up to the remaining states of Australia.
New Zealand’s COVID Response Minister, Chris Hipkins, said travellers from SA, ACT, Tasmania or Victoria can only fly if they have not been in NSW since 22 June; or Queensland, the NT or WA from 26 June.
“Cabinet carefully weighed up the evidence this morning and we consider that partially lifting the pause at this point is an appropriate course of action, particularly when bolstered with the introduction of a mandatory pre-departure test,” Minister Hipkins said.
Quarantine-free travel between the two countries only started in April, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had warned the agreement would be temporarily halted in the event of a lockdown.