Air New Zealand won't rule out booking freeze extension


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, its chief executive says.

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, Megan Woods, said the system could not purely be demand-driven. 

Emirates and Singapore Airlines are also being asked to stop taking bookings over the same period of time. 

The national carrier said it would need to contact some passengers travelling in the next three weeks - to move their booking because of isolation capacity constraints. 

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran told RNZ's Checkpoint 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'll be looked at day-by-day across all the teams and we'll come up with the right answer." 

He said 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. 

He believes 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.

Foran said 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 is hopeful of a trans-Tasman bubble before the end of the year. 

"I think we've got two Governments and two nations that are close in terms of their thinking and how they'd want to operate and I think there's a lot of benefits if we can get that bubble operating." 

Meanwhile, Health Minister Chris Hipkins hasn't ruled out using cruise ships to isolate the increasing number of people returning to New Zealand. 

He said every option is on the table at this point as long as they meet the relevant isolation criteria.