Air New Zealand will continue a normal schedule from Queenstown to Auckland and Wellington for an extra 24 hours after the government extended the two-day grace period.
Chief executive Greg Foran said he was “relieved” and “grateful” at the decision, which means the airline will operate seven services from the resort town.
It comes as New Zealand on Thursday reported another 11 cases of the Delta variant, taking the total outbreak to 21. The whole country is currently in a three-day lockdown, with Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula facing restrictions for a week.
“Yesterday we added four additional services out of Queenstown for today, and they sold out within minutes,” said Foran. “Queenstown is a popular holiday destination, so it’s no surprise to us that it’s where the pressure is coming from.
“We estimate there are somewhere around 600 people requiring flights, so we are confident that the additional 700 seats tomorrow will ensure that there are options for those that need it. As always, we will continue to monitor the demand and adjust as needed”.
The airline also announced details of its new lockdown schedule, which will only enable domestic travel for essential reasons and require proof of the reason for travel.
Auckland–Christchurch and Wellington–Christchurch will shift to operating two return flights, while Auckland–Wellington, Wellington–Nelson and Christchurch–Dunedin will operate one return service.
The business said customers who booked to travel on cancelled services will receive an email and bookings will be held in credit for 12 months, with another 12 months to travel.
Despite the surprise snap lockdown, Foran said the airline has prepared for this scenario.
“We want to remind customers that we’ve been here before and have built capability to work through the changes,” he said.
“Our teams will be working hard over the next 48 hours to get Kiwis to where they need to be and we ask that customers please be patient and appreciate our staff are doing their very best.”
However, in good news, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said genomic sequencing has revealed the Delta outbreak was likely linked to a traveller from Sydney who entered the country’s MIQ hotel quarantine system.
“Today, we believe we have uncovered the piece of the puzzle we were looking for and that means our ability to circle the virus and lock it down and stamp it out generally has greatly improved,” she said.
“From the whole genome sequence analysis, our current positive cases are a close match to a recent returnee from Sydney who arrived on a managed red zone flight on August 7, had a day one test on August 8, returning a positive result on August 9.”