Air New Zealand unveils summer long-haul flight schedule, Intrepid Travel urges re-opening road map

Air New Zealand has unveiled long-haul routes to its summer schedule from the end of October but warns it is not expecting travel to open up from then.

“As much as we wish the addition of the long-haul flights to our schedule meant the reopening of the borders, unfortunately, it does not,” said the airline’s general manager networks, Scott Carr.

Flights appear in the schedule from November on routes such as Auckland to Singapore,Honolulu and Vancouver as well as the timetable on existing United States routes but he said they were primarily aimed at freight, if the Government’s subsidy scheme is extended again.

“The schedule reflects the flying that we will undertake should the Maintaining International Air Connectivity scheme be extended.”

It also provided Kiwis that are wanting to return home after October 31 some certainty around when the airline intends to operate in order for them to secure managed isolation and quarantine spaces, said Carr.

Since the pandemic threw airlines into a tailspin, thousands of scheduled flights have been scrubbed as stay-at-home orders and border restrictions changed. Airline schedules change at the end of March and October to match peak flying periods in the northern and southern hemispheres.

There are no clear signs of when borders will re-open beyond Australia and the Cook Islands but Singapore has been tipped as another bubble partner and high rates of vaccination in Hawaii and California mean they could be states with which New Zealand could open travel to before other places in the US.

Although Honolulu has been in Air NZ’s schedule during the pandemic, it hasn’t been a route for the subsidised freight programme.

Intrepid Travel: show us the roadmap

Australian-based Intrepid Travel said today New Zealand should follow Scott Morrison’s government across the Tasman and outline how the country will open up.

Australia’s four-phase plan moves from the present pre-vaccination stage to ”back to normal,’ including allowing uncapped inbound travel for all vaccinated people without quarantine.

Intrepid Travel’s managing director Brett Mitchell said that inquiries from Australian travellers spiked dramatically following the announcement last Friday and there was big pent-up demand in New Zealand as well.

He said a road map to re-opening would build confidence in the travel industry in this country where Intrepid still has an Auckland office.

Its offices in the United States had seen 2019-levels of demand for travel among vaccinated people.

”It happens pretty quickly – the demand is there.”

While last year it cut numbers in Auckland in half from around 15 as the pandemic hit, Intrepid was optimistic about growth in this market and was hiring two to three people to serve the US market from this country.

New Zealand was an over-performer for the small group tour company which has a presence in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Britain and Germany.

”We think that pent up demand will be back and we expect New Zealand to be punching above its weight.”

Mitchell said a fast and effective vaccination programme was critical to get borders open.

Government backing

Intrepid has qualified for an Export Finance Australia loan of A$30 million ($32m) to support 169 jobs in that country and expand.

He said the New Zealand Government should consider doing the same here to keep travel agencies financially healthy now that wage support has dried up.

”The travel industry was the first hit and it will be the last to recover.The Government should be looking at further support.I know there are much more macro issues which makes it harder but you really want strong, successful, New Zealand businesses to really help Kiwis when they travel.”

In the future agents could be called on again to help repatriate people, keep them safe overseas and fight for refunds if there were further disruptions.

Agents here have also been able to tap into ascheme where they can claim from the Government for a percentage of refunds and credits they get for clients for unused travel overseas.

Mitchell said the travel industry would need to build in more flexibility into bookings and very clear refund policies.This is where agents came into their own with their expertise.

”When Kiwis go travelling overseas it can be three to four weeks, so there’s a lot of different components – they need to know what is open and what isn’t.”

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