Air New Zealand flight crew working flights to and from the United States are doing time in hotel quarantine at taxpayer’s expense. Some crews have also spent more than 100 days self-isolating. Now, New Zealand media reports are questioning the logic and expense of the quarantine rule for flight crews.
New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association questions quarantine requirement
According to a report by George Block in online news site Stuff, Air New Zealand flight crews coming off flights from the United States are required to quarantine in Auckland. Flight crews are completing this quarantine requirement at an upscale Auckland hotel.
In addition to scaled back passenger flight schedules, including twice-weekly Boeing 787-9 services to Los Angeles, Air New Zealand operates dedicated freighter flights to North America and around the Pacific Rim. With vaccination rates increasing on both sides of the Pacific, questions are now being asked why flight crews fresh off flights from North America have to quarantine in hotels rather than isolate at home.
Andrew Ridling, president of the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association and an Air New Zealand 787-9 captain, told Stuff the requirement was ridiculous. He said some flight crews had clocked up more than 100 days in quarantine, albeit not in one block.
Ridling points to the high vaccination levels now seen in the United States. Most of Air New Zealand’s flight crews were vaccinated in March. The Air New Zealand pilot says there is no reason flight crew cannot self-isolate at home, given the low risk they present.
Presently, even after a negative test result, flight crews must remain at the Auckland hotel for some time.
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New Zealand Government picking up the bill for flight crew quarantine
In March, health officials formally recommended the New Zealand Government dropped the quarantine requirement for flight crews off North American flights. Several months later, the Government is yet to decide on this recommendation.
Also raising eyebrows is the cost of quarantining Air New Zealand flight crews. Since late January, all returning flight crews from high-risk countries have been whisked to the Auckland hotel that’s solely dedicated to quarantining Air New Zealand flight crews. That is costing a reputed US$357,200 per month. The New Zealand Government is picking up the tab. The New Zealand Government owns over half of Air New Zealand.
However, the Government is set to stop paying the hotel bill at the end of June, handing the expense over to Air New Zealand. That may see a fresh focus on the quarantine requirement at Air New Zealand’s HQ and some concerted lobbying to end the requirement.
Air New Zealand keeps flying amid shifting quarantine regimes
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand has gone to some lengths to work around New Zealand’s tough hotel quarantine requirements in the last 12 months. For a while, North America-bound flights were touching down in Honolulu.
There, Air New Zealand had temporarily based flight crews. The Honolulu-based crews would fly the final leg to mainland North America while the Auckland-based crews operated flights back to New Zealand. The Honolulu base has since been discontinued.
Last week, Air New Zealand announced they would start basing crews in Brisbane. Those crews would operate Air New Zealand’s resuming flights between the Australian mainland and Norfolk Island.
While flight crews operating flights between New Zealand and Australia are not subject to quarantine requirements, Air New Zealand knows circumstances can change quickly and is proactively working to avoid potential disruptions on this route.