COVID-19: Air New Zealand apologises for 'incorrect' message which suggested full bubble closure

Air New Zealand has apologised for an incorrect answering machine message which hinted at bubble trouble with Australia, saying the Government has announced "an extended pause" on travel - even though no such announcement has been made yet. 

The message asks people to check the travel alerts page on the Air NZ website for more information.

"We're working closely with the government to arrange options for people to return home as soon as possible."

General Manager of Customers Leeanne Langridge told Newshub the message was recorded on Wednesday after a huge increase in calls about whether people could travel from Australia.

"The team tried to simplify the message. Unfortunately in this case the simplification has led to an incorrect message that the New Zealand Government had announced an extended pause of quarantine-free travel with Australia. This is a rapidly changing environment and our teams are doing their best to get the most up-to-date information to customers, we apologise that in this case we may have added to the confusion."

Cabinet met on Thursday to discuss the bubble with Australia, where the COVID-19 situation continues to deteriorate.

New South Wales on Thursday reported 124 new cases, its highest daily total yet. That's despite the state being weeks into restrictions. Victoria also had its worst day yet of the year, while South Australia also has local cases.

New Zealand has a pause in place currently with NSW, Victoria and South Australia - but there are hints the whole bubble could burst on Friday, rendering Air NZ's unfortunate error correct. 

It's causing no small amount of anxiety for the hospitality sector with Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White saying the fallout will be immediate.

"The hospitality sector will be impacted immediately and it will be hard this time to replace it with domestic because the school holidays are coming to an end," she told Newshub.

White says Queenstown could be staring down the barrel of a 60 percent cancellation rate if the bubble is closed.  

"The impact on your business is honestly soul-destroying."

White added although the bubble closure would be catastrophic for hospitality, she understands why the Government needs to assess all options.

"The new norm is uncertainty - having any of the states open to travel is a good thing, but not at the risk of bringing COVID in. We don't want this Delta variant so I think the best case is state by state would be good, as opposed to having no travellers through here."

The events sector is also awaiting news of a possible closure, with the general manager of New Zealand Events Association, Segolene de Fontenay, saying closure would have a "flow-on effect" for the sector.

"There will be an issue for trying to secure talent, artists coming to New Zealand, whereby they would have to go through managed isolation."