Border barrier warning: Airline activity could stay stuck in the 60s

An airline group says time is running out for the Government to give carriers more certainty about borders.

Overseas airlines have been left scratching their heads after yesterday’s Governmentannouncement about easing border rules, saidJustin Tighe-Umbers, co-chair of the New Zealand Aviation Coalition (NZAC).

“They’re looking at our high vaccination rates and how out of step we are with the rest of the world which is opening up, they can’t understand it.”

The Government says foreign visitors will be able to skip MIQ if they are fully vaccinated and meet other conditions but this won’t happen until the end of April and they will have to self-isolate for seven days.

Tighe-Umbers said there was no justification to wait five months.

The country was nearing peak vaccination and he said he would like to see Australians allowed into New Zealand quarantine-free by February, and international visitors by March.

Airlines don’t know who’s allowed in after April 30 – the only thing they know for sure is that travellers will have to isolate for seven days.

They say the isolation requirement means New Zealand will be off the radar. “It’s a market killer for us, while global markets are already open and planes are filling fast.”

The coalition had told the Government it has until February at the latest to provide a concrete plan to international airlines ifthe country wanted air connections to recover from the 1960s levels they are at now.

“This isn’t a threat, it is simply a commercial reality – airlines can’t afford to fly loss-making routes.”

While Air New Zealand had about 40 per cent of the international market pre-Covid and was gearing up for what could be a strong recovery, overseas carriers would redeploy to markets where they could make more money.

The way forward was simple, said Tighe-Umbers – let airlines know when we will move to quarantine-free entry for double-vaccinated travellers.

After February, plans for summer 2022/23 are locked in, and if airlines can’t fill planes then New Zealand will lose more routes and capacity.

“The danger for travelling Kiwis is we’ll be back in the bad old days of having to fly to Australia to get to places they could fly direct to last year.”

New Zealand is one of few countries to require self-isolation, while North America, Europe and some Australian states are opening for double-vaccinated and tested travellers.

New South Wales and Victoria have been open to returning citizens since November 1. New South Wales is now quarantine-free. More than 17,000 people have crossed its border since opening and their daily case rate was similar to New Zealand’s, said Tighe-Umbers.

• The absence of overseas visitors today claimed a high profile casualty with the Youth Hostel Association of New Zealand (YHA) permanently closing the doors on its 11 managed hostels onDecember 15.

“Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has just gone on too long for us to be able to ride it out. Today is a sad day for tourism in New Zealand.” said general manager Simon Cartwright.

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