Auckland, July 7, 2020
Air New Zealand has not ruled out extending its three-week freeze on bookings to help with the squeeze on the managed isolation of returning travellers, Chief Executive Greg Foran has said.
With capacity for just 6849 people in 26 managed isolation and quarantine facilities across five cities, pressure is going on those resources.
The Minister in charge of Managed Isolation Dr Megan Woods, said that the system could not purely be demand driven.
Emirates and Singapore Airlines are also being asked stop taking bookings over the same period.
Mr Foran said that the airline needs to contact some passengers travelling in the next three weeks – to move their booking because of isolation capacity constraints.
He told RNZ’s Checkpoint that he agreed to the three-week booking freeze on an “ethical” basis.
It had been a simple decision to provide the right support to the government, he said.
Foran said he was confident that rival airlines would “do what’s right” and limit their capacity. All the airlines have a role to play given the current situation with almost 7000 people in managed isolation, he said.
“We may have to look at other solutions around that [the three weeks] because there’s a lot of New Zealanders who live overseas who are obviously looking to come home and managing that through the entire supply chain is important here. It will be looked at day by day across all the teams and we’ll come up with the right answer,” Mr Foran said.
He said that he was expecting about 5000 people to travel home to New Zealand on the airline in the next three weeks, and he was not expecting hundreds of people to have to change flights.
Matching arrivals with availability
He believes that the airline will not lose much revenue over the decision because passengers will just delay their travel for a couple of weeks.
After the hiatus the government wants Air New Zealand to match its daily arrivals according to beds available in isolation.
Mr Foran said that discussions are already taking place with the government on capacity limits beyond the three weeks, depending on whether more rooms became available for the managed isolation process.
“Our job is to move people around and they’ve [the government] got a responsibility to greater New Zealand around this and we’ll work with them,” he said.
He is hopeful of a Trans-Tasman bubble before the end of the year.
“I think that we have got two governments and two nations that are close in terms of their thinking and how they would want to operate. There are many benefits if we can get that bubble operating,” Mr Foran said.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins has not ruled out using cruise ships to isolate the increasing number of people returning to New Zealand, saying that every option is on the table at this point as long as they meet the relevant isolation criteria.
-Published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz