Coronavirus: Air New Zealand extends booking freeze on homebound flights for overseas Kiwis

Overseas New Zealanders desperate to come home amid the ongoing pandemic will need to wait another 12 days before they can book their journey back to Aotearoa.

Air New Zealand has extended its booking freeze on all homebound flights until August 9, three weeks after its initial announcement. 

Earlier in July, the Government confirmed that seats on international flights for returning New Zealanders would be restricted, as the country's managed isolation and quarantine facilities faced an influx of new arrivals.

On July 7, it was announced that the airline would be freezing inbound bookings on international services until July 27, which was later prolonged until July 29.

In a statement to Newshub on Tuesday, the airline confirmed the hold has been extended for a second time to ensure there is enough available accommodation for returnees to complete their 14 days of mandatory managed isolation upon arrival.

"Following an uplift in bookings, Air New Zealand has put a hold on new bookings on international services into New Zealand until August 9 to help ensure the country is able to provide quarantine accommodation for inbound passengers for the required 14-day period," said an Air New Zealand spokesperson.

"The airline first put a hold on new bookings on international services into New Zealand in early July, following a request from the Government. This hold was initially extended until July 29, to ensure we comply with the rolling 14-day quota announced last week."

The spokesperson noted that a small number of customers may need to be shifted to other flights due to the extension and any affected travellers will be contacted.

On July 7, Housing Minister Megan Woods - the minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine facilities - said the Government was "never going to let" border facilities reach maximum capacity.

"Space isn't going to run out. We have data from the airlines around who is coming back. This is exactly why we've taken this measure so that we can ensure that our managed isolation facilities continue to be a strong line of defense at our borders," she said, following Air New Zealand's initial freeze announcement.

Last week however, Woods noted that the mandatory isolation system - comprising 32 hotels across five cities - was close to reaching the manageable capacity set at 7202 returnees. It was intended that the number of isolating Kiwis would not exceed 90 percent capacity to allow some breathing room.

According to the Government's daily data on the system, 6832 returned citizens and permanent residents are expected to pass through managed isolation or quarantine facilities over the next seven days.

According to the national carrier's website, there are no flights departing major Australian cities until August 10, leaving desperate Kiwis across the ditch stranded for another two weeks. Reduced international flight numbers are expected to remain in place until August 31.

In a brief statement to NZME, Air New Zealand chief executive officer Greg Foran said the airline is continuing to manage homebound flight bookings moving forward.

Speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday, aviation commentator Irene King said there needs to be more alternative solutions to the booking freeze.

"There must be more sensible arrangements then actually turning on and off bookings," King said.

"Because what they will do is ultimately destroy any prospect of New Zealand being considered as a credible destination to visit."