COVID-19 continues to cause havoc across the airline industry. This time, it’s in the South Pacific. As the second wave of COVID-19 begins to get traction, Air New Zealand has closed inbound international reservations for at least a fortnight.
The airline is working in conjunction with the New Zealand Government. The decision acknowledges the need not to flood the country’s health system or quarantine facilities with sick people.
Air New Zealand’s COO, Cam Wallace, posted the news on Twitter a few hours ago.
As a short-term measure @FlyAirNZ has agreed to close out bookings for the next three weeks on international inbound sectors. We are working closely with the Govt to support NZ's continued success in its fight against covid-19. @andykirton
— Cam Wallace (@CamWallace_NZ) July 6, 2020
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A temporary block on inbound Air New Zealand international bookings
According to the New Zealand Government, Air New Zealand agreed to cap inbound bookings temporarily.
“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,” said Cam Wallace in a statement.
“We are seeing rapid growth in the numbers of New Zealanders coming home as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens,” said New Zealand’s Housing Minister Megan Woods.
“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.
“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.”
A second wave of COVID-19 a bitter pill for Air New Zealand
New Zealand now has around 6,000 people undergoing a compulsory 14 day quarantine period at 28 facilities around the country. The mandatory quarantine has been critical to keeping COVID-19 numbers low in New Zealand.
But inbound arrivals are steadily increasing in New Zealand, putting pressure on resources. What New Zealand doesn’t want is a second outbreak. Hitting the pause button on inbound bookings is a move towards achieving this.
Nonetheless, it must be a bitter pill for Air New Zealand to swallow. After some months of stringent national lockdowns, the airline has enjoyed some success rebooting its domestic flying. On the international front, they’ve maintained a barebones service around the Pacific, including Australia, the United States, and Singapore.
Around a month ago, Air New Zealand announced the resumption of their service to Narita, albeit it on a reduced frequency. Just days later, the airline resumed flying back into Shanghai. Again, on a reduced frequency, but it was the first time Air New Zealand had flown in since February. These flights were little green shoots of optimism.
Battening down the hatches, again
But now, the hatches are battering down again. This decision closely mirrors what’s happening across the ditch in Australia. There are no inbound arrivals in to Melbourne Airport at the moment. That city is struggling to contain its second wave of COVID-19. Australia’s biggest airport in Sydney has capped its daily international arrivals at 450 people. There is also a maximum of 50 passengers per international flight.
It is a ploy by Australia’s two biggest airports and their respective state governments to spread the load of arrivals and compulsory quarantine around to all of the capital cities.
Meanwhile, whether the current ban on inbound bookings on Air New Zealand lasts longer will depend on any escalation of COVID-19 in New Zealand.