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Air New Zealand Cancels Over 100 Flights Following Border Reopening Delay

New Zealand has deferred allowing Kiwis in Australia from returning and bypassing mandatory quarantine until the end of February. As a result, Air New Zealand has canceled some 120 flights that will see an estimated 27,000 passengers bumped from flights.

Air New Zealand has canceled around 120 trans-Tasman flights across January & February. Photo: Airbus

Tentative mid-January reopening pushed back by six weeks

New Zealand was due to lower the drawbridge at least a little in mid-January. The plan was to allow fully vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia to head home and self-isolate rather than go into quarantine (or what the New Zealand Government calls “managed isolated and quarantine,” or MIQ for short).

Fully vaccinated New Zealanders based in other countries were to be allowed to return in February, with the remaining unwashed but fully vaccinated non-Kiwi riff-raff allowed in from the end of April.

However, the Omicron variant has seen the New Zealand Government lose its nerve. On Tuesday, New Zealand Government Minister Chris Hipkins said;

“To slow the rapid spread we have seen overseas, we are pushing out the start of non-MIQ travel until the end of February 2022. There’s no doubt this is disappointing and will upset many holiday plans, but it’s important to set these changes out clearly today so they can have time to consider those plans.”

Chris Hipkins (pictured) delivered the border delay news on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

ir New Zealand moves to cancel scheduled non-quarantine flights

With that, the already small number of flights scheduled into New Zealand before the end of February were thrown into disarray.

“Non-MIQ-travel back to New Zealand for Kiwis in Australia will be delayed until the end of February, and to the end of March for Kiwis further abroad,” an Air New Zealand travel advisory reads.

“This means quarantine-free flights from Australia to New Zealand between January 17 and February 28, 2022, will be canceled, and a limited number of quarantine services will be released.”

Most of the flights canceled are on the trans-Tasman Australia – New Zealand sector. However, some long-haul flights will also be impacted. Air New Zealand currently maintains near-daily flights in and out of Auckland from Sydney and Melbourne and one or two return flights a week from Brisbane.

“Air New Zealand is working through what this means for our international schedule,” an update advised on Wednesday afternoon. “More details will be shared in due course.”

New Zealanders and anyone else, fully vaccinated or not, go straight into a spell of expensive MIQ upon landing in Auckland. With this regime in place for another two months, Air New Zealand’s already scaled-back December trans-Tasman schedules might simply roll over into January and February.

“Our heart goes out to those who were counting down the days until they could reconnect with their family and friends,” Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran told local media.

“While this news is disappointing for the airline, we know these changes are put in place to keep New Zealand safe. We are here for our customers, and as we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to fly to get them home to New Zealand as MIQ allocations allow.”

The canceled flights will impact around 27,000 passengers. Photo: Airbus

More bad news for stranded Kiwis

Stranded Kiwis face further bad news. Those MIG beds are not only expensive, but they are also scarce. Demands far exceeds supply. Airlines won’t let you board a flight to New Zealand without proof of a MIQ booking. On Tuesday, the New Zealand Government canceled the latest batch of MIQ rooms due to be released. They say the next release will be on January 6.

“We need to carefully manage capacity as more travelers spend longer in MIQ. This reduces available rooms in MIQ,” the government posted online.

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