Air New Zealand has reported a significant boost in traffic on its website after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday Auckland will soon be moving out of lockdown.
Auckland has remained in strict lockdown since August, only seeing few restrictions ease due to high COVID-19 cases, but now is gearing up for reinstated freedoms.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ardern said from 15 December, people can travel out of Auckland who have been fully vaccinated or have received a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before departure.
Amid the announcement, the Auckland-based carrier said its website traffic jumped by 250 per cent, seeing its peak at 1:15pm.
“It’s no surprise that Kiwis are looking forward to a summer holiday with their friends and whānau, but we’ve been blown away by the demand,” said chief customer and sales officer at Air NZ, Leanne Geraghty.
“We’ve had tens of thousands of bookings across the 20 destinations we fly to as Kiwis take advantage of the relaxed levels.
“We’re seeing huge demand out of Auckland – as Aucklanders look to reconnect with family and friends after an extended lockdown.”
Geraghty said destinations Aucklanders are picking include Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
“December is gearing up to be a really busy month, with the bulk of bookings made yesterday for the week or two before Christmas.”
The release of lockdown comes as the nation has seen a sharp rise of vaccinations, now reporting 82 per cent of the eligible population being double jabbed.
Prime Minister Ardern expects the nation to reach 90 per cent by mid-December.
The requirement to vaccinate before departure will be upheld over most of the summer season, ending on 17 January.
At the time of the announcement, a vaccine pass was made available to citizens which will become a prerequisite for entering retail shops, restaurants and more.
It also comes weeks after Air New Zealand said domestic travellers must have proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to their flight.
On 29 November, the cabinet will confirm the decision to move Auckland into the new traffic light system to manage case numbers, initially placed into Red, which is the highest under the new framework.
The nation has maintained an alert level system throughout the pandemic, but Ardern said moving to the traffic light system is safer and offers incentives for vaccinations.
“As I said earlier in the week, the traffic light system is safer than the alert levels,” Ardern said.
“For example, currently in a region at Level 2 everyone can go to a hospitality setting, vaccinated or not, with the Level 2 key restrictions of seated and separated.”
But under the traffic light system, initially at Red, people must be vaccinated to have access to those freedoms.
“With safety and minimising the spread of the virus in mind I can also confirm that Cabinet will look to move those areas with lower vaccination levels into the traffic light system at Red,” said Ardern.
She said this will add further protections and “hopefully” increase vaccination rates.
“The vaccine pass is your ticket to summer and an essential under the traffic light system, so get ready by downloading it today,” Ardern said.