Air NZ goes to ground in deluge of enquiries

Saturday March 14, 2020 Written by Published in Economy
An Air New Zealand jet on its last approach to Rarotonga. 20031346 An Air New Zealand jet on its last approach to Rarotonga. 20031346

New Zealand Prime Minister puts tight new controls on travel to the Pacific – but her national airline makes first cut the deepest. 

Don’t call us.

That’s the plea from Air New Zealand, after cancelling dozens of flights to and from Rarotonga.

Twenty-two flights to and from Cook Islands were quietly wiped from the schedule without any wider public announcement.

And yesterday the airline referred media enquiries to the Immigration Division – which seemed bemused to be handed responsibility for flight scheduling.

The airline blamed Covid-19 for the cancellations, reducing customer demand for seats. The news comes just hours after struggling Virgin Australia announced it would be stopping flights to Rarotonga for good.

It also comes as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces strict new controls on people departing to the Pacific, including health checks and a 14-day stand-down in New Zealand first.

Air New Zealand’s Auckland-Rarotonga-Auckland flights on March 30 are the first ones cancelled. Twenty more flights scheduled for April have also been canned, with more cancellations expected in May and June.

And the airline said it would make further schedule announcements in response to Ardern’s new travel restrictions.

The airline is snowed with a “very high volume” of customer enquiries. It issued a public statement yesterday, asking customers to contact them only if their flight was departing within the next 72 hours.

They referred all enquiries about Covid-19 to the travel alerts section of their website. “We appreciate the patience and support of our customers at this difficult time.”

The cancellation of these flights is expected to hit the Cook Islands tourism industry which is grappling with the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.

But Graeme West, Cook Islands Tourism’s general manager New Zealand and Australia, said there would still be “one or two Air New Zealand flights” on the days these flights have been cancelled.

“The cancellations are all on days when Air New Zealand had either two or three flights already operating, which means they are still operating one or two flights on all of those days.”

West was unable to provide specific numbers yesterday “as things are changing daily”. But he said he would be in a better position to provide further information on the impact the cancellation would have on the local industry, later this weekend.

“It is important that members of the public are informed of these kind of things as it helps keep perspective.”

Air New Zealand in a statement on Thursday said they had to make some changes to their international schedule due to the continuing impact of coronavirus on customer demand.

“As a result, we’ve customers impacted by these schedule or aircraft changes will be contacted directly by Air New Zealand in the coming days, via the contact information provided in their booking, or the travel agent they booked through,” the airline said.

“Continuing to get our customers to their destinations is our first priority and we thank customers for their understanding.”

Last night, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced:

·         Every person entering New Zealand from anywhere in the world will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, excluding those from the Pacific;

·         Health assessment including temperature check;

·         Cruise ships are banned from New Zealand until at least June;

·         Strict new health measures at the border for people departing to the Pacific;

·         No travel to the Pacific for people who have travelled outside of New Zealand in the past 14 days;

·         No travel for close or casual contacts of confirmed cases.

5 comments

  • Comment Link Tracey Rata Friday, 03 April 2020 08:39 posted by Tracey Rata

    Are all flight's from New zealand to rarotonga cancelled, please let the people know, what's really going on.

  • Comment Link Christine Brown Wednesday, 18 March 2020 04:58 posted by Christine Brown

    Is it true that the Air New Zealand has cancelled all flights out of NZ , we have bookings for Rarotonga for the 29th May 2020 CHC - Akl then AKL -Raro

  • Comment Link Monty Baker Sunday, 15 March 2020 19:45 posted by Monty Baker

    Contacted ANZ yesterday morning regarding flights...staff member that I talked to..Ulani.? ..could not have been more helpful in the situation she had...WELL DONE.

  • Comment Link Reynaldo Sunday, 15 March 2020 16:11 posted by Reynaldo

    Have available flights from nz to cook islands

  • Comment Link Ese Saturday, 14 March 2020 19:07 posted by Ese

    Has the Cook Is government now banned all cruise ships including to Rarotonga?...apparently after the latest restrictions announced by Jacinda for NZ 14/03/2020?

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