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Flight changes welcomed

Thursday 5 May 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in National, Travel


Flight changes welcomed
Nooroa (Bim) Tou and his wife Elisabeth board an Air Rarotonga flight in October for the Aitutaki Bi-centennial celebrations. Photo: Supplied/22010609

As Covid-19 daily numbers begin to plateau in Aitutaki, tourism operators are welcoming the relaxation of certain flight rules.

On May 1, compulsory Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) were dropped as a requirement to board Air Rarotonga to fly to Aitutaki, while mask-wearing on flights was no longer mandatory.

Air Rarotonga managing director Ewan Smith said he did not expect an immediate uptick in numbers, but removing the RAT test provisions was a “relief”.

“It was a source of delays in flights for us, as people arriving at Rarotonga Airport from Auckland would have to get tested before they boarded our flight to Aitutaki,” Smith said.

“For that reason, we’re pleased to see it go.”

Smith said despite the relaxation of rules, Air Rarotonga was still encouraging people to wear masks on flights, staff were observing social distancing and were still sanitising the aircraft at the end of each day.

“We’re certainly still taking precautions,” Smith said.

He said the airline was running about 50 per cent of capacity.

“That’s to be expected, and I don’t expect things to improve massively until we are opened up to Australia, United States and Europe.

“I’m guessing things will pick up once those things happen in the second half of the year.”

Figures provided by Te Marae Ora show that on Monday, there were just 13 reported Covid-19 cases in Aitutaki, 32 in Rarotonga and 15 in Atiu.

There have been 5200 cases of Covid-19 in the Cook Islands since the pandemic began, with 258 of those cases still active.