Air New Zealand asks Government for longer than 48 hours to get hundreds home

Air New Zealand has asked the Government to extend its 48 hour amnesty timeframe for people who are wanting to return home for the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown, but are unable to due to the lack of flights.

Speaking to RNZ, the airline's CEO Greg Foran said there's particularly high demand for flights back to Auckland from Queenstown.

The airline has put larger aircraft on the route as well as adding three extra flights - but it's still not enough to get everyone home.

"We got 15,000 passengers moved yesterday, and it would be fair to say that most of those were back to Auckland," Foran told RNZ.

"Quite a lot of that is getting people back from the South Island to the North Island and Queenstown is probably the key pinch point at the moment."

Level 4 restrictions mean everyone has to have returned home by midnight tonight, however Foran wants a little bit longer to enable Air NZ to get an additional 600 people back.

"If we could potentially fly some of them back tomorrow, we are pretty sure there are a few hundred people who are keen to get back."

He said the airline had asked the Government to allow it to continue flying people home on Friday.

"I would think we would ideally want the best part of tomorrow to get everyone back," Foran said.

Air NZ has also increased the size of the aircraft flying to and from Queenstown as well as adding three additional flights to the route this morning.