Air New Zealand insists 'strict protocols' being taken to protect staff and passengers from COVID-19

The airline says it is 'completely supportive' of more Government testing.
The airline says it is 'completely supportive' of more Government testing. Photo credit: Getty Images

As Aotearoa's border safety faces scrutiny amid a resurgence of COVID-19, Air New Zealand has laid out the measures it's taking to protect customers and staff in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon.

The airline confirmed its CEO Greg Foran has spoken with Health Minister Chris Hipkins outlining the precautions the airline is taking during the pandemic.

"We understand the Government is considering options for improvements to their current testing regime and we are completely supportive of this," Foran said.

"The protocols we currently have in place to prevent staff from contracting COVID-19 have been established in conjunction with the Ministry of Health. We know these have been working because since early April, we haven't had a case of COVID-19 in the airline.

"However, we acknowledge that all systems and processes should be regularly reviewed, and we are committed to working with the Government to do even more to protect our staff, customers and New Zealanders from COVID-19."

High, medium or low risk destinations are set by the Ministry of Health and are reviewed regularly.

Airline precautions: 

On all flights:

  • Crew wear masks and gloves when interacting with passengers
  • Full PPE is worn when crew are dealing with unwell passengers 

For medium risk layovers including Narita, Hong Kong, Shanghai:

  • Air crew wear masks and gloves when moving through the terminal
  • Private crew transport is used between the airport and hotels, not mixing with other passengers
  • Crew must isolate in hotels, limiting trips outside to 1 hour per 24-hour period
  • Staff are not allowed to use the hotel gym or pool while on layover
  • Crew cannot meet with other crew while on layover 

For high risk layovers San Francisco and Los Angeles:

  • Wear masks and gloves when moving through the terminal
  • Use private crew transport to hotels, not mixing with other passengers
  • Isolate in hotels for duration of layover
  • Not allowed to use the hotel gym or pool while on layover
  • Not allowed to meet with other crew while on layover
  • All food must be delivered to rooms
  • On return home, air crew must isolate for 48 hours, complete a COVID-19 test, then isolate until test results are known

In addition to the Ministry of Health measures outlined above, Air NZ has also put in place a range of its own measures.

Additional measures:

  • Segregating A320 crew so they do not operate both internationally and domestically
  • Cleaning the aircraft with antiviral products approved for use by aircraft manufacturers and the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • Providing hand sanitiser onboard and in airports for customer use
  • Requiring passengers onboard domestic and international services to wear masks which are replaced every 3-4 hours on long haul flights
  • Ensuring air crew have multiple channels through which to raise concerns
  • Strongly encouraging Auckland Airport-based staff to be tested in response to the recent outbreak in the city, resulting in huge numbers of staff presenting for voluntary tests

Several international destinations have "strict protocols in place to ensure crew are not exposed to COVID-19", including the testing of aircrew before departure, on arrival, or both. This includes prior to operating flights to Hong Kong, China and Samoa.

Foran said airline staff who operate to high risk destinations are going above and beyond in order to keep people safe, including self-isolating upon returning, causing disconnection from family, friends and everyday activities.

"It's fair to say our pilots and cabin crew have borne the brunt of the impact of COVID-19, on a very personal level. This has a tremendous impact on their everyday life and wellbeing." 

Any crew who are symptomatic, or who have had to break isolation offshore for an essential purpose, such as to seek medical attention, must enter quarantine on return to New Zealand.