Passenger flights are still operating in and out of New Zealand.
But Justin Tighe-Umbers, executive director of BARNZ (Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand), says the closure of the border last night to all but New Zealanders and their families is starting to impact future schedules.
“Again we are asking travellers to be please be patient,” he says. “Border changes are being made around the world and the airlines are doing their upmost best to keep ahead of the situation.
“People heading to check in desks to try and get and immediate flight have to understand that the people at those desks are just trying to cope with who can board the flights going in the next three hours, let alone three days.”
BARNZ is supplying updates to its 28 airline members as changes are announced by Immigration New Zealand and the Ministry of Transport. Those announcements then must filter through to front line staff along with the directives from all around the world.
“International travellers in New Zealand should first contact their travel agent to confirm their outbound flight,” Mr Tighe-Umbers says. “And only those travelling in the next 24 hours should call the airline. As well as frontline staff at airports, airline call centres have been overwhelmed.
“If you have an overseas trip booked for May or June, please be patient and you can expect to be contacted as soon as the airline knows what is happening internationally during that period. We need to get immediate travellers cared for first.”
Mr Tighe-Umbers says the airlines are working closely on keeping cargo channels open for New Zealand.
“Air freighters are picking up passenger flight cargo all around the world. BARNZ members and the NZ Government are looking at what is possible to keep the country’s $25 billion air freight links open. That could include using passenger aircraft to carry cargo only. “
Mr Tighe-Umbers says the aviation sector is the lifeblood of the $17 billion tourism industry and export and import supply chain.
“The Government must shift money to the right places now to ensure the aviation infrastructure is protected so that it can reboot as quickly as possible once the COVID-19 threat subsides,” he says.
“That means ensuring we support people like airline staff, ground handlers, caterers, fuellers and air traffic controllers. Ground handlers, for example, include people who have vital skills to ensure aircraft are balanced for safe flying.”
Mr Tighe-Umbers says the $600 million package announced for aviation is only a foot in the door for the aviation sector’s survival. Airlines are scrambling to do what they can for their passengers, but they too will rely on support to see the crisis though.
Justin Tighe-Umbers is not available for further interviews today.
BARNZ will advise media of any updates and a change in his availability.
For media enquiries please contact:
Mob: 021 22 40 520
The Board of Airlines Representatives of New Zealand Inc. is the respected and trusted voice of the airline industry in New Zealand. We work closely with the Government, regulators, businesses and local communities to provide cost savings and service improvements for our member airlines; and to create an environment that fosters continued, sustainable growth for them in NZ. For more information, please visit www.barnz.org.nz