Air New Zealand To Scrap Social Distancing As Country Eradicates COVID-19

Social distancing will become a thing of the past onboard Air New Zealand. New Zealand is out of lockdown, and locals are free to do as they wish within the confines of the country’s hermetic borders. As a result, things will be getting back to normal space-wise on Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is ending social distancing on its domestic flights. Photo: Getty Images

It has been over two weeks since New Zealand had a case of COVID-19. After imposing a super strict lockdown in March, the country is now officially coronavirus free, and Kiwis are free to go about their business.

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Out of lockdown and back on the road

That means New Zealanders are traveling around the country again, and Air New Zealand has been busy ramping up its domestic schedules.

It also means the social distancing requirements and norms can go out the window.

“Alert Level 1 means we can operate our aircraft to capacity, and social distancing is no longer required on our aircraft or at airports.

“We will continue to be vigilant with frequent cleaning of high-touch points as well as any surface, which appears to have been contaminated by coughing/sneezing, as quickly as possible,” says the current Air New Zealand in-flight health advisory.

Social distance is no longer required but we will be vigilant, says Air New Zealand. Photo: Getty Images

Great news for Air New Zealand

It will be sad news for passengers who quickly came to enjoy the spacious surrounds of empty adjacent seats on their flights. But, Air New Zealand management will be cheering at the prospect of filling their planes again and collecting sweet, sweet revenue.

The airline plans to fly at 55% of pre-COVID-19 domestic capacity throughout July and August. That’s a significant rebound on the capacity cuts seen in April and early May when passenger loads fell 99%. By mid-May, the airline was operating around 20% of its normal domestic schedule. It was only selling 65% of the seats on an Airbus A320 and less than 50% on its turboprops because of social distancing restrictions.

Air New Zealand expects revenue to halve compared to last year. But the airline’s CEO, Greg Foran, has just announced an 800-day plan back to profitability under a staged revive, survive, and thrive process. It’s not only a profit Mr Foran is chasing; he wants ‘healthy profits.’

Key trunk routes busy again

Key to that will be filling his planes. With flights ramping again, Air New Zealand will be flying to 20 domestic airports. The airline will use its usual mix of jet and turboprop aircraft. Sadly, the shortlived Dreamliner service between Auckland and Christchurch has disappeared. On the plus side, the airline will be operating 59 services a week between the two cities. There will also be 64 services a week between Auckland and Wellington. The sector between Wellington and Christchurch will see 66 weekly flights.

Also, most of the Koru Club lounges have re-opened. Unfortunately, the in-flight Koru Hour, with its late afternoon complimentary drinks service, hasn’t yet resumed. Air New Zealand advises it is working to rectify this.

Key trunk routes are starting to see a significant increase in capacity. Photo: Getty Images

Health and safety remains a priority

With things getting back to normal, Nikki Goodman, Air New Zealand’s Customer Experience GM says passenger health and safety remains a top priority.

“As always, our top priority is ensuring we keep our customers and people safe. So high touch surfaces on board and in our lounges and airport spaces will continue to be cleaned regularly.”

Meanwhile, as Air New Zealand powers up again, its smaller competitor Jetstar New Zealand has announced it is resuming flights again from July 1 with 75 weekly flights across the country. The airline is selling tickets for just NZ$21.