Air New Zealand Sets Surprising New Domestic Flight COVID Rule

While airlines now commonly ask passengers to present proof of their vaccination status before boarding international flights, few airlines do so for domestic flights. But Air New Zealand is turning that on its head. From December 14, passengers on Air New Zealand domestic flights will need to present proof of full vaccination or a recent negative test result before boarding.

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Air New Zealand will ask domestic passengers to produce vaccination certificates or test results from mid-December. Photo: Getty Images

Air New Zealand says no vaccination or negative test result, no-fly

The rule, announced on Tuesday morning, will apply to all passengers aged 12 or older traveling on an Air New Zealand aircraft within New Zealand. Air New Zealand already requires passengers boarding their international services to present proof of their vaccination status.

Air New Zealand domestic passengers not fully vaccinated will be able to provide evidence of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours before departure. The airline appears to be running this as a trial, setting an end date of March 31, 2022. The airline will then re-assess its policy based on the situation.

“Delta has really upped the stakes. What once kept us safe is no longer enough and we need an extra layer of protection. That’s why we’re taking a step further to keep our customers safe while allowing all Kiwis to fly,” said Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran on Tuesday.

“We’re doing it to protect vulnerable communities, for those with weakened immune systems or who can’t get vaccinated, for the elderly in our rest homes and our wee tamariki at home.”

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Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran. Photo: Air New Zealand

Walking a fine line between keeping passengers safe and allowing access for essential travel

Around two-thirds of New Zealand’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, has been in lockdown for 14 weeks. But the city is on track to reach a full vaccination rate of 90% shortly, and plans are in place to begin lifting lockdown restrictions. December 6 is the rumored lockdown exit date.

“Customers will be flying this summer for a number of reasons, and it’s our role to get them there. We don’t want to leave anyone behind, which is why we’re giving customers the choice to either be fully vaccinated or present a negative test,” says Mr Foran.

Air New Zealand recently surveyed thousands of customers and employees. The vast majority supported the airline hardening its stance on vaccinations. But Air New Zealand is careful not to exclude the unvaccinated from access to what can be essential air links. That’s why they will allow people to board domestic flights if they can provide proof of a recent COVID-19 test and a negative result.

“We appreciate that not everyone is going to be vaccinated, and in many locations the only way that you’re going to be able to fly is on an Air New Zealand flight,” added Mr Foran.

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Air New Zealand says the bulk of its customers and employees support the vaccination/test result mandate. Photo: Getty Images

New Zealand becomes an outlier with domestic air travel rule

While not government policy, Air New Zealand is government-owned and commands an 85% domestic market share. The new rule effectively sees New Zealand join Canada as one of the few countries asking to see a passenger’s vaccination status before boarding a domestic flight.

New Zealand’s near neighbor, Australia, has no plans to introduce such a rule. Across the Pacific, the subject is under discussion in the US. Anthony Fauci broadly supports the idea, but the Biden Administration has so far resisted the idea, preferring to push for widespread vaccination.

Air New Zealand says domestic travelers unable to produce proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result can obtain a fare credit or refund.

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