Covid 19 coronavirus: Air New Zealands 48-hour scramble to get 50,000 Kiwis home

Air New Zealand will organise more than 800 flights for 50,000 passengers over the next 48 hours to get Kiwis home.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran told Newstalk ZB broadcaster this morning that this is a major logistical challenge, but that the airline was prepared to deliver.

Foran added that there are are more than 3000 New Zealanders currently in Rarotonga who will also need to come home at some stage.

He said that he was confident that the airline would be able to deliver, given it had rehearsed these measures in an anticipation of an outbreak.

Teams at the airline have been segregated to ensure that an outbreak could be contained.

Foran said the airline had anticipated the possibility that the Delta variant could enter New Zealand at some stage. ​

“While today’s announcement is not the news we wanted to hear, Aotearoa is prepared. We’ve faced these challenges before, and we are prepared to do it again,” he said in a statement to customers this morning.

“Our teams have already made some adjustments to our operation in line with the move to alert level 4 for the whole country, and I wanted to let you know about the extra precautions we’ll be taking to look after our people and customers.”

He said the airline would be providing extra fare and flight flexibility amid the changing circumstances across the country.

“If you are booked on a domestic flight due to depart between 11:59pm tonight and up until 11.59pm on 24 August, you can change your booking with change fees and fare difference waived to travel up to and including 31 August 2021,” Foran said.

“If you don’t know your new date of travel or you’re not eligible to fly due to the alert level, you can hold your ticket in credit, valid for 12 months from date of credit issuance.”

Domestic flights on Air New Zealand will be significantly reduced in the coming week.

There have also been significant changes for any flights that will remain on schedule.

Lounges will be closed at alert level 4 and food and beverage won’t be served on flights.

The latest lockdown will come as another hit to the airline, which forecast losses of up to $530 million earlier this month.

The airline had revised its earnings forecast to reflect the impact of the suspension of the transtasman travel bubble.

The national carrier says it now expects losses will not exceed $530 million for the 2022 financial year, assuming a fuel price of US$78 per barrel.

The company previously stated, as recently as June 18, 2021, that it expected losses in 2022 to be similar to the $450 million reported in the 2021 financial year.

At the time, the airline said that it continued to assess the impact of future suspensions on air travel amid the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.

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