Air New Zealand will put a three-week hold on new bookings on its international services into New Zealand to help the Government manage the growing number of arrivals going into managed isolation or quarantine facilities.
Housing minister Megan Woods said this morning that there was rapid growth in the numbers of New Zealanders coming home as the Covid-19 pandemic worsened overseas.
“Our number one priority is stopping the virus at the border, so everyone must go into quarantine or managed isolation. The Government is also talking to other airlines about managing flows,” she said.
“The last thing we need are hastily set up facilities to meet demand, so we must have a manageable number of fit-for-purpose, safe facilities that do the job of stopping Covid at the border.”
Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb met with Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran last week to discuss ways to jointly manage the increase in arrivals to match the availability of managed isolation beds.
As well as the temporary hold on new bookings for the next three weeks, the airline was also looking at aligning daily arrivals with the capacity available at managed isolation facilities.
Air New Zealand chief commercial and customer officer Cam Wallace said this could mean some customers would need to be moved to another flight.
“We accept this is a necessary short-term measure given the limited capacity in quarantine facilities and we’re keen to do what we can to help New Zealand’s continued success in its fight against Covid-19,” he said.
People who had already booked flights with the airline would still be able to enter New Zealand, subject to availability of quarantine space.
There were currently nearly 6000 people across 28 managed isolation facilities in New Zealand.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb said the Government was looking at scaling up more spaces “all the time”.
“Standing up new capacity at the required levels for people to stay in for 14 days of isolation is a hugely complex undertaking; it needs appropriate levels of health and other services nearby, New Zealand Defence Force personnel, and extra security to ensure that people are looked after properly so the risk of Covid getting out into the community is minimised,” he said.
More than 26,400 people have been through managed isolation and quarantine since 26 March.
“These temporary measures will ease the current demand on facilities while additional supply is brought on line. In the past three weeks we have brought on capacity of ten new facilities for 2000 more people, and have a plan to bring on another 750 places in the coming weeks,” said Webb.
“The pause on new bookings will be short-term, and allows us to increase supply to match forecast demand over the coming weeks.”
Outbound Air New Zealand services from New Zealand to international ports were not affected by the Government restrictions, nor were domestic services.
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