Air New Zealand Begins Eyeing Increase In Domestic Capacity

On Friday, Air New Zealand said that it is looking at increasing its domestic capacity as the government announced that the COVID-19 alert level might be downgraded next week. However, the need for continued social distancing means the lowest fares won’t be available.

Air New Zealand 777 being towed
Air New Zealand looks to increase domestic capacity. Photo: Biponacci via Wikimedia

Cautious optimism for Air New Zealand

As reported by KFGO this morning, Air New Zealand will begin to operate at around 20% of its normal capacity as the coronavirus pandemic restrictions are eased.

New Zealand is currently at alert level 3, but the government will decide on Monday whether to reduce the alert to level 2. Air New Zealand says that when the move to level 2 is confirmed by the government, it will announce its domestic schedule. In an update this morning, Air New Zealand said:

“We’re planning to operate around 20 percent of our usual domestic services and will likely see the return of flying to Queenstown, Invercargill and Blenheim in the South Island and Rotorua, Gisborne, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Whangarei and Kerikeri in the North.” 

This is in addition to the services that have been operating to maintain essential travel in and out of Aukland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Napier, Nelson, Tauranga and Wellington.

Simple Flying reached out to Air New Zealand for further comment but had not heard back at the time of publication.

Air New Zealand 777 taking off
Social distancing means higher fares. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia

Social distancing rules mean higher fares

According to Reuters, while Air New Zealand will be able to increase its flights, the troubled airline could only sell 65% of the seats on an Airbus A320 and less than 50% on its turboprops because of social distancing restrictions.

Greg Foran, Chief Executive of Air New Zealand, said that until the removal of social distancing, the airline wouldn’t be able to offer its lowest fares. This is to ensure that its operating costs are covered until the removal of social distancing measures.

New Zealand anticipates ease in lockdown

New Zealand has been in a strict lockdown for over five weeks. The Guardian reports prime minister, Jacinda Ardern as saying that the country was “halfway down Everest” in the battle with COVID-19.

The lockdown measures seem to have paid off and the government will make a decision on downgrading the alert on Monday. This will give the people and businesses more freedom and the hope of some return to normality. It also enables Air New Zealand’s resumption of domestic travel services. The airline says:

“Whilst we are very keen to increase domestic air services to support New Zealand’s economic recovery and connect family, friends and businesses, please bear with us over the next few days as we finalise our schedule and travel requirements.”

It anticipates a further update by Tuesday 12th May.

Air New Zealand aircraft landing
It will be a slow road to recovery. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Air New Zealand expects a slow road to recovery

Air New Zealand, which turned 80 years old last month, expects the journey to the recovery of domestic flight schedules to be a slow one. Even when the state of alert is removed, the depressed economy, increased unemployment among New Zealanders, and borders closed to international travel will result in fewer passengers and fewer flights operating at reduced frequencies.

It’s not just the economic damage that will affect the recovery of air travel. The confidence of passengers in the safety and health aspects of flying also needs to be restored.