As the COVID-19 situation continues to deteriorate in locked down Sydney, Air New Zealand is increasing the tempo of flights from Sydney to repatriate New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. Sydney is bracing for a lengthy lockdown, and New Zealand has paused quarantine-free travel from the city. Meanwhile, thousands of Kiwis are clamoring to get home.
New Zealand pauses quarantine-free flights from Sydney as the city goes into lockdown
Sydney recorded 117 cases of community transmission COVID on Sunday – big numbers for that part of the world. Only around 9% of the Australian population are fully vaccinated, and vaccinations remain hard to get in Sydney for many age groups. Unfortunately, in place of a well-managed vaccine rollout, squawking politicians and health bureaucrats are in crisis mode and busy shutting down Australia’s biggest city.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand hit the pause button on quarantine-free travel out of Sydney (SYD) on June 22. Travelers to New Zealand from Sydney, including Kiwis, would have to go into a 14-day quarantine in a supervised facility upon arrival. New Zealand-bound flights out of Sydney began to dry up. Thousands of Kiwis stuck in Sydney looked like enduring a grim locked down winter.
“Case numbers in Sydney show no sign of plateauing, and NSW has today ramped up restrictions again,” said New Zealand Government Minister Chris Hipkins on Friday. To get its people home, the New Zealand Government is laying on managed Air New Zealand repatriation flights this week. Nine flights out of Sydney went on sale on Monday, selling out in 15 minutes.
Nine Air New Zealand repatriation fights over 10 days
With each repatriation flight flying between 40 and 60 passengers, seats were at a premium. Because all passengers will go straight into a 14-day quarantine on arrival and bed space is limited, passenger numbers are being capped or “managed” to match available quarantine beds.
“About 1000 rooms over the next fortnight will be readied,” Mr Hipkins said. “I want to reassure people that they will be able to return, but we ask for patience. In the meantime, we are strongly advising people not to fly to Sydney unless they normally live there and are returning home.”
Air New Zealand sold the seats on a first-come-first-served basis. According to New Zealand online news site Scoop, nine Air New Zealand flights will operate between July 13 and 23. Seven of those flights will fly Sydney – Auckland (AKL), and two will fly Sydney – Christchurch (CHC).
“We would love to be able to bring more Kiwis home to their families, but we’re limited by the availability of quarantine spots,” says Air New Zealand’s Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty.
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Qantas also assists the repatriation effort
Two flights will operate on July 13, one to Auckland and one to Christchurch. That will be followed by flights to Auckland on July 14, July 15, July 16, July 17, July 18, July 20, and a final flight to Christchurch on July 23. Around 20% of the available seats were reserved for people needing to travel on compassionate grounds
“Our teams have worked tirelessly with the government over the weekend to get these managed return flights up and running,” said Ms Geraghty.
Meanwhile, Australian airline Qantas is also running several repatriation flights to New Zealand this week. Qantas’ online timetables for the current week show flights continuing between Sydney and Auckland and weekly services to Wellington (WLG) and Christchurch.