COVID-19: Air New Zealand, Flight Centre respond to announcement of border reopening

There's been mixed reactions to how New Zealand's borders will reopen in 2022 amid the COVID-19 pandemic from two of the biggest names in travel in Aotearoa.

On Wednesday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the country's borders will open in stages across a three-month period from January.

David Coombes, managing director Flight Centre Travel Group NZ, is excited the Government was able to give some clarity to New Zealanders and the travel industry; but suggested the reopening wasn't happening fast enough.

"We do question why this action needs to wait until 2022, given the desperation of many families to reunite with their loved ones ahead of Christmas," Coombes said.  

"We also believe a seven-day isolation seems excessive if vaccination requirements and COVID-19 testing is being used at every stage of a traveller's journey, which is more rigorous than domestic requirements." 

Coombes said Flight Centre "sincerely hopes" the announcement is the worst-case scenario and would welcome any conversations with the Government to land on a sooner date with simpler safety measures. 

Air New Zealand also welcomed the news saying it "will be saying 'kia ora' to all visitors who meet the Government's requirements for travel." 

"Today's announcement signals the beginning of the return to international travel. This is incredibly exciting news for New Zealanders at home and overseas and we can't wait to welcome our customers back on board," said the airline's Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty. 

"We've kept our operation ready for this, so look forward to seeing the tens of thousands of Kiwis who'll be making plans to board our aircraft soon."

However, the airline's excitement did come with a "but." 

"It would have been nice to reunite friends and families this side of Christmas," Geraghty added.

Following the border announcement, Air NZ is readjusting its schedule. Quarantine-free 'green' flights from Australia and New Zealand from January 1 - 6 will be cancelled and customers will be accommodated on other services or have their fares placed into credit.

The airline continues to operate a reduced schedule of flights into Sydney and Melbourne and 'red flights' from Australia into New Zealand for those with MIQ spots.

Air NZ plans to release more details around its schedule soon, including when it will restart flying to key destinations like Los Angeles, Fiji and Honolulu.