Coronavirus: Lufthansa's mammoth effort to repatriate Germans stuck in New Zealand

Coronavirus: Lufthansa's mammoth effort to repatriate Germans stuck in New Zealand
Photo credit: Richard Maher - Instagram/airside_with_richard

They may be on opposite sides of the world, but two major organisations are working together to repatriate Germans stuck in New Zealand due to the coronavirus crisis.

Auckland International Airport's aeronautical team is working with Lufthansa, the national carrier of Germany, coordinating numerous flights to get visitors to New Zealand home.

The task at hand is polar opposite to the airport's usual brief of encouraging passengers and airlines to bring people into Aotearoa, but the team recognises it's just as important. 

"What has really changed is the timeframes. There's a lot that goes into preparing for the arrival of a new airline service and it can take between six and 12 months under normal circumstances," said Scott Tasker from Auckland Airport.

"With Lufthansa, who is new to New Zealand, this includes everything from sorting IT connections, sharing airport operating procedures, ground-handling arrangements to finding crew accommodation and having a German-speaking member of our team on hand to help."

"Having all of New Zealand on a Level 4 lockdown has definitely added another layer to the complexity and challenge, but we were really happy to be able to play our part." 

The first Lufthansa 747-400 repatriation flight took place on March 28, carrying German nationals from Auckland to Frankfurt, via Tokyo.

Lufthansa are flying a further five Airbus A380 repatriations flights from Auckland to Frankfurt, via Bangkok, over the course of this week.

Two more Lufthansa flights are on their way to New Zealand.
Two more Lufthansa flights are on their way to New Zealand. Photo credit: FlightRadar24.com

The German airline will operate 12 repatriation flights over the next seven days including five Airbus A380s, each with 509 seats, and five Boeing 747s, which each have 371 seats.

"We are honoured to fly people back home in these extraordinary times. Carrying out repatriation flights and flying half-way around the world is the responsibility of Lufthansa," said Alain Chisari, the Asia-Pacific manager for Lufthansa.

Until COVID-19, Lufthansa, one of the world's most famous airlines, had never flown to New Zealand, but for the following week their aircraft will be a daily sight in our skies, and the gravity of the reason behind that is not lost on the airline's team back in Germany.

"Together with the New Zealand people I am looking forward to the day when regular travel will return to their country and the rest of the world," Chisari said.  

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