Wow: Air New Zealand’s Quarantine Flights Sold Out In Minutes

Seats on Air New Zealand’s flights to Australia over October sold out within minutes when released on Monday morning. That might sound impressive, but Air New Zealand was limited to selling as few as ten seats per flight – going a long way to explaining why the seats sold out so quickly.

Seats on Air New Zealand flights to Australia over October sold out within minutes on Monday. Photo: Getty Images

Passengers scramble for the few available Air New Zealand seats

As reported in Simple Flying on Monday, Air New Zealand has canceled most of its scheduled flights to and from Australia until November 30. This followed the New Zealand Government extending the quarantine-free travel pause with Australia until mid-November.

Both countries now require arriving passengers to undergo a 14-day managed quarantine process. But snagging a bed in a quarantine hotel in Australia is a tougher process than in New Zealand. As a result, Australian authorities put limits on the number of passengers allowed onto Australia-bound flights.

Australia links an available quarantine bed with a seat on an incoming aircraft. New Zealand requires inbound travelers to book a quarantine bed then book a flight.

“Because of the quarantine constraints in Australia, we were only allocated a total of 385 seats to Perth, Brisbane, and Melbourne between 25 September and 30 October. On some flights, as little as 10 seats were available,” says Air New Zealand’s Leanne Geraghty. “It’s an incredibly unfortunate situation for many people who are either stuck here in New Zealand or in Australia.”

In a statement, Air New Zealand said the available seats to Australia sold out within three minutes on Monday morning. Prospective passengers told media outlets that the seats were sold out before they’d entered their passenger details.

Air New Zealand can sell as few as 10 seats per flight to Australia. Photo: Airbus

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Air New Zealand will make more seats available if Australian authorities allow

The passenger limits imposed by Australian authorities can vary on a day-to-day basis and make forward planning difficult for airlines and passengers. As Air New Zealand’s frequent schedule re-adjustments and cancelations suggest, booking a seat to Australia can be akin to a lottery. There is a high chance of flight cancelations and/or passengers bumped as passenger capacity limits shift.

“Would there be some sort of transparency regarding the available spaces allocated to Air NZ?one person asked Air New Zealand online. “Just to help some of us assess whether it is realistic to be planning a return to Australia in the near future.”

“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to confirm how many spaces will be available at this stage as it depends on what the Australian Government allocates to us. This may differ for future flights as well,” Air New Zealand said in response.

“We are in constant conversations with the Australian Government around whether any additional allocations will be made available. If more space does open up, customers will be able to book,” said Ms Geraghty.

Off a plane in Sydney and straight into 14 days quarantine. Photo: Getty Images

Air New Zealand is not the only airline feeling the capacity squeeze

Air New Zealand isn’t the only airline feeling the squeeze here. By way of example, United’s daily flights to Sydney remain restricted to around eight passengers. Singapore Airlines last week confirmed they can only fly between one dozen and two dozen passengers per flight.

On Monday, Air New Zealand said there were still some seats available on flights to New Zealand. But New Zealand news site Stuff reported all available 3,000 quarantine beds in New Zealand for November and December sold out in one hour on Monday morning. Without a confirmed quarantine seat, a flight to New Zealand cannot be booked. Stuff reports 26,000 Kiwis tried to book one of the 3,000 available beds.

Australia plans to resume some international flying by Christmas, whereas New Zealand is pursuing a COVID zero strategy. The likelihood of the quarantine-free travel corridor between New Zealand and Australia restarting in November is slight. That’s not good news for Kiwis stranded in Australia and hoping to get home to New Zealand by Christmas.