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Flights return to Auckland as 4-month lockdown ends

written by Adam Thorn | December 15, 2021
Australian Aviation's Blair Dods waits for his Air New Zealand 787-9, ZKNZQ msn 39296, to depart Auckland for Sydney
Australian Aviation’s Blair Dods waits for his Air New Zealand 787-9, ZKNZQ msn 39296, to depart Auckland for Sydney on the day the trans-Tasman bubble first opened earlier this year.

Passengers are able to fly in and out of Auckland for the first time since August after the city’s lockdown and border restrictions were significantly downgraded.

New Zealanders can now travel without an exemption, provided they are fully vaccinated or have had a negative COVID test 72 hours before departure.

The first fight to arrive in Auckland was an Air New Zealand De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300, ZK-NES msn 641, which departed Whangarei at 6:10am as flight NZ8217 and landed at 6:35am. The first departure was a Jetstar A320, VH-VFN, which left at 6:51am as flight JQ225 and landed in Christchurch at 7:53am.

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Anna Cassels-Brown, Auckland’s general manager of operations, said passenger numbers are expected to ramp up to just under 27,000 on the busiest days – exceeding the peak day of the July school holidays.

“Based on our forecasts, those days leading up to Christmas from the 22nd onward are when a lot of people will be travelling in and out of Auckland Airport, with first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and the early evening particularly busy,” said Cassels-Brown.

“But even those first days after the Auckland border opens should see a lot of travellers, with close to 30 per cent more travellers than the same time last year.”

The airport said since lockdown began on 17 August, domestic travel dipped to 600 passengers a day, down from the 23,000 recorded.

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“There may have only been a handful of passengers every day over the past four months, but our operational teams have been at the airport every day during lockdown ensuring travellers can reconnect safely – from those undertaking necessary domestic travel and Kiwis arriving or departing internationally, through to maintaining important air cargo connections,” said Cassels-Brown.

Alongside Auckland Airport, Air New Zealand will also ask passengers to either show proof of full vaccination or present a negative COVID test prior to their flight.

The policy will be in place “for an initial period” from 14 December 2021 until 31 March 2022 and be applicable to all passengers aged 12 and over.

In New Zealand, PCR tests can be completed via free community testing centres through a passenger’s GP.

Should passengers return a positive COVID result or are otherwise unable to provide the necessary proof required before their flight, they can put their fare into flight credit, while Flexi Refund fares can be fully refunded.

The airline said the new policy hopes to add a “new layer of assurance” for customers travelling throughout the country over the busy Christmas and summer holiday periods.

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