An infectious disease expert has called on Air New Zealand to stop serving food during domestic flights as it means people have to take their facemasks off.
Associate Professor Dr Siouxsie Wiles, who has been at the forefront of providing information during the COVID-19 pandemic, tweetetd her frustration that Air New Zealand has "continued offering food & drink. And that means people take their masks off during the flight to eat and drink."
In November the Government made face masks mandatory for everyone using public transport and on all regional flights.
"Adding mask wearing to the toolbox of measures against the virus is a sensible precaution and the time is right to make the move," COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said at the time.
However under the current regulations, people are allowed to remove their masks to eat or drink.
Dr Wiles tweeted: "This makes me really angry, as they got a massive bail out from the government to keep them viable & so surely in return they should be doing their bit for our team of 5 million.
"And they are only serving a cookie or some chips. It’s not like we can’t survive the hour or two without them."
Dr Wiles said she had sent feedback to the airline about their food and drink policy but had not heard back.
Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran told Newshub they have already reviewed their food and beverage offering with the Ministry of Health.
"We reviewed our food and beverage offering with the Ministry of Health very recently and they were supportive of us continuing this service under Alert Level 1," Foran said in a statement.
"We continue to have regular dialogue around our settings with the MOH and the Ministry of Transport to ensure we keep everyone safe. Customers are of course still required to keep their mask or face covering on while they are not eating or drinking."
"I travel on our domestic services once a week serving tea and coffee and my experience has been that around two thirds of our customers opt to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and a snack while on board."
Foran said he has reached out to Dr Wiles to invite her to engage with them and the measures they are taking to keep customers safe.
Aviation commentator Irene King told Newshub last year that wearing masks takes the appeal out of travel.
"Wearing the mask is denigrating the whole ambiance of the flight," she told Newshub.
"We come to associate flying with eating and also drinking but now, of course, you're going to have to skilfully move around a face mask."
King said some airlines may even scrap meal services.
"Some of the airlines now are restricting the types of food and others are just removing alcohol so you don't have to reposition your face mask."
Hipkins said in November last year the decision to enforce face masks on flights had not been taken lightly.
"They [decisions] are based on expert advice from a range of scientific and public health disciplines and seek to strike the right balance between maximum efficacy and practicality.
"Combatting COVID-19 requires a sustained effort from all New Zealanders and there are simple actions everyone can take to keep us safe."