Air New Zealand working to return Kiwis during MIQ clemency window

covid19.govt.nz/travel/quarantine-free-travel/australia/

Air New Zealand is working closely with MIQ to return Kiwis from Australia during the week-long clemency period, says CEO Greg Foran.

There is currently a seven-day window where eligible returnees – except those coming from New South Wales – will not be required to enter MIQ.

It was possible this could be extended for a short period, but is due to end next Friday 30 July.

The border is currently shut to all passengers but New Zealand residents.

After this point all returnees will need to book MIQ spaces in order to board a plane back to New Zealand. From these red-flights they would be escorted straight to MIQ for 14 days.

“There are going to be some New Zealanders who may have to shelter-in-place in Australia for an extended period of time,” said a spokesperson for MIQ.

Air New Zealand was working to add additional seats for returning Kiwis during the window.

“We’ve had a pretty clear message from the Prime Minister about getting back to New Zealand,” said Foran.

“We’re working very closely with the government to let them know what sort of demand we’re seeing out of the states.”

With regards to how many New Zealanders will be taking up the offer of these amnesty flights, it was “too early to make a call at this stage.”

However by the end of the weekend it would be clearer what proportion of Kiwis would shelter in place or be coming back, but they would be adding seats accordingly.

Air New Zealand said it would be adding extra planes to meet demand.

The airline had already added extra flights out of Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday and estimated the current number of return seats at around 4000 outside of NSW.

For passengers flying back from Sydney this was more difficult.

Following the announcement of the eight-week Australian bubble suspension, Air New Zealand announced five “Managed Return” flights from NSW for next week. All of these sold out within hours.

The requirement of passengers from NSW to quarantine meant that Sydney flights were more dependent on space out of MIQ.

“Unfortunately those are relatively limited and have been for some time.”

MIQ told the Herald that it was unlikely that further rooms would come online in the short to medium term due to high demand, but would be releasing vouchers for December once all inbound flight schedules were finalised.

Foran said he was aware of the dissatisfaction and difficulties that New Zealanders had been experiencing trying to get MIQ spaces. However, they were not the only airline, and Australia was not the only destination Kiwis were trying to fly back from.

“It’s a process that the Government manage and controls and we do our best to make sure that as soon as those are available we line up to get people back.”

Following price fluctuations ahead of today’s announcement, flights out of quarantine-free states such as Queensland were costing up to $910 for entry economy seats.

Foran said that prices for flights over the next week would be capped, during the return window.

The pause of New South Wales during the school holidays and subsequent unravelling of the bubble meant that the number of Australians in New Zealand were relatively low.

Domestic flights would be largely unaffected by the rush to return from New Zealand.

The domestic network continues to perform very well. We’re about to close out the school holiday period here in New Zealand and it’s been really robust.

The next three days are set to be big dates for the airline at home.

“We are continuously reviewing the amount of capacity we have domestically and have been making changes around New Zealand holiday destinations.”

It was too early to say if the 2 month suspension would need to be extended or raised early, however Foran said they would be back in Australia and beyond.

“I’m sure we will get further in the South Pacific but it’s not going to happen overnight. We need to get these vaccinations complete and that will give us an opportunity to start growing again.”

He thanked the eight and a half airline workers “who continue to step up and do their best and deal with change”.

Travellers booked on to Air New Zealand flights visit airnewzealand.com/covid19-international-trave

For the latest information on requirements for returning from Australia visit:
covid19.govt.nz/travel/quarantine-free-travel/australia/

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