Air New Zealand estimates 20,000 customers will be affected after New Zealand’s (NZ) flag carrier axed 1,000 flights to Australia saying uncertainty around international border policy forced its hand.
Leanne Geraghty, Air New Zealand’s chief customer and sales officer, said that “due to recent statements by the NZ government that quarantine-free travel between Australia and NZ is unlikely to re-commence this year, we’ve had to make the difficult decision to change our schedule.”
“This will be particularly tough news for families and friends who were hoping to catch up over Christmas,” she said in a statement on Nov. 22.
“I appreciate how difficult this news will be, but our hands are tied until border restrictions ease, and we receive further clarity from the NZ government.”
The carriers schedule after Dec. 31, 2021, will remain in place and is dependent on further updates from the NZ government.
Impacted customers can place their airfares on credit or receive a refund. Air New Zealand will continue to run a limited service.
Australia currently offers quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated travellers from NZ, yet those going to NZ must still undergo quarantine.
The announcement from Air New Zealand comes as NZ begins its shift towards living with COVID-19.
“Delta is here,” NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Nov. 22.
“I know that there will be some who may have some anxiety about these changes, but I can assure you we will continue to operate in the cautious and careful way that has served us so well … we are fast approaching the next phase in our COVID response that delivers more freedoms,” she added.
“The number one thing every New Zealander can do to prepare for the new system is to get vaccinated,” she said.
The government will transition from a tough suppression strategy to deal with the pandemic and adopt a “traffic light system” that will include green, orange, and red levels.
Each level will define what restrictions—including vaccine passports and social distancing—individuals and businesses must follow.
NZ has one of the highest vaccination benchmarks in the world, 90 percent, before reopening the country.