With airlines struggling globally to survive the COVID-19 crisis, the Government’s announcement of $600 million to support the aviation sector is being welcomed with open arms.
Justin Tighe-Umbers, executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ), says the package will be a lifeline, but over coming months more will be needed.
“Today’s support from Government will help provide liquidity into the aviation system,” Mr Tighe-Umbers says. “More will be needed to help re-establish New Zealand’s connections to the world and get this country’s $17 billion international tourism sector back on its feet.”
The 28 airlines represented by BARNZ are making drastic cuts to their New Zealand schedules, with more than 80% reduction common. Others are simply suspending flights.
“The scale of airline cuts made this week has never been seen before,” Mr Tighe-Umbers says. “Airlines are in a fight for their lives. New Zealand needs to act fast to safeguard its air connections to the world, ready for when COVID-19 subsides and air travel picks up again.”
“The real danger is that we lose critical aviation resource in the short-term, only to find we can’t scale the system back up when needed.”
BARNZ is meeting government in the next 48 hours to flesh out the details of the package.
This initial package shows the government and Transport Minister Phil Twyford understand the extreme danger to New Zealand’s economy from protracted withdrawal of international flights.
Airlines need a comprehensive package that will allow them to maintain a minimal schedule and to safeguard the people and services essential to operating New Zealand’s aviation network.
This includes the temporary suspension of government levies, taxes and charges to airlines and rebates for airport charges.
The range of measures announced today including wage subsidies will help to make a difference, Mr Tighe-Umbers says.