Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran says COVID-19 elimination strategy 'not sustainable'

The strategy of eliminating COVID-19 is "probably not sustainable" according to Air New Zealand's CEO Greg Foran.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, he said the current coronavirus situation means quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand is unlikely for at least six months.

"I certainly do not believe we will see anything across the Tasman this calendar year. It's hard to believe it would be before March next year and could well be longer," Foran said.

"If it comes back quicker, we're going to pop some champagne.

"Elimination - which is a worthy thing to go after - is probably not sustainable based on what we're now learning, which is the vaccine is not going to be 100 percent effective, not everybody is going to take it, and it's going to take years to get distributed."

His position on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic puts him at odds with the New Zealand Government, which is committed to eliminating the virus from the country.

"The answer is a degree of moderation, I think, and those countries – and cities in the case of Australia – that work through that probably end up in a better position," Foran said.

"In America, they've recently done a survey over there and only half the people said they'll take the vaccine.

"And then of course we have reinfection rates."

Kiwi-born Foran came to Air NZ after running Walmart in the US, landing in the job just as the COVID-19 crisis hit.

"I never got to experience Air NZ in anything but a crisis," Foran said.

"I'm learning a new industry, we're dealing with the biggest crisis that's ever hit that industry, and the Government owns 52 percent of the company.

"The combination of those things has made this as challenging as any role that I've ever had."

Foran said international travel will be "clunky" when it returns and travel to destinations such as the US is unlikely any time before the end of 2021.

Since February, Air NZ has laid off 4100 of its approximately 12,000 employees. Last month posted a loss of NZ$454 million - its first loss since 2002.