BREAKING: As multiple airlines scale back or cancel services to mainland China following the coronavirus outbreak, Air New Zealand is now following the trend. The Kiwi airline has just announced it is cutting back on its flights to China.
Air New Zealand currently flies a daily Boeing 787-9 Auckland – Shanghai – Auckland service. Air New Zealand had previously said it was monitoring the situation. In a statement just released, the airline has announced it will be reducing its daily flights to four flights a week between 18 February 2020 and 31 March 2020.
Air New Zealand is citing a decline in the demand for travel between New Zealand and China as the reason. Spokesperson Doug Grant said in the statement;
“While our Shanghai services are at capacity in the coming weeks, with new group travel restrictions in place we expect demand may ease in the short-term.
To minimize disruption to those currently booked to travel, the revised schedule will come into effect mid-February. We thank customers in advance for their understanding.”
It is a swift about-face for the airline. Hours ago, it told New Zealand’s 1 News that it was monitoring the situation in China closely but it remained ‘business as usual’ for the time being.
Flight times maintained with a drop in frequencies
Air New Zealand is maintaining its normal flight times. A midnight departure from Auckland arrives in Shanghai at breakfast time the following morning. An early afternoon departure from Shanghai has the flight back in Auckland the following morning.
Under the reduced frequencies, flights will depart Auckland on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The return flights to Auckland will depart Shanghai on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
The move by Air New Zealand means it is the second of the airlines that operate direct services between New Zealand and China to make a cutback.
China Southern, China Eastern, Hainan Airlines are yet to change their New Zealand schedules. Sichuan Airlines reduced its services to New Zealand earlier this week.
Air New Zealand had won praise for bucking the trend
A matter of hours ago, Air New Zealand was been praised by local tourism experts for not blindly following the aviation pack. Auckland University of Technology tourism professor Simon Milne told NewsHub;
“They’ve been evaluating the situation and their chief medical officer is giving some reassuring points about why they continue to fly. There’s a relatively new virus here, that we don’t quite fully understand in terms of transmission or death rates.”
Professor Milne said ultimately the decision to reduce services to China came down to commercial reasons.
“I think what you need to realize, airlines like United who have canceled or reduced flights are saying they are doing that because the traffic isn’t there. People aren’t wanting to fly.”
The reduction in services will take effect from 18 February 2020. Air New Zealand says it will be contacting all affected customers. The airline is also offering options for any passengers who wish to amend their travel plans to China.