Following the New Zealand government’s announcement that the country will move to the red traffic light at midnight tonight (23 January), Air New Zealand announced the airline will continue to keep the country connected on domestic routes. New Zealand will increase COVID-19 restrictions after evidence showed that the Omicron variant of the virus is circulating in the community. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference Sunday in Wellington that there is no date set for a review of those settings and “everyone should plan to be in red for some weeks,” she said.
The move to the “red” settings will include more mask wearing, gathering limits and increased distancing requirements at hospitality outlets. It’s not a lockdown, with businesses able to remain open and people allowed to travel freely. No regional lockdowns are being considered, Ardern said.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says like all businesses, Air New Zealand is preparing for the impact Omicron will have on its customers and employees. “Our priority has always been and continues to be, keeping our employees, customers and New Zealand safe. The great news is, you can continue to fly during the red setting and there are no regional borders in place. However, we do expect to see some impact to our operation.
“As a result of one of our employees testing positive for Omicron, subsequently, around 15 aircrew have been stood down as close contacts. They are well and are testing and isolating in accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines. What this does mean is that while we will continue to do all we can to keep (the country) connected, we expect to see some schedule changes and cancellations over the coming weeks due to COVID.”
Air New Zealand is advising customers to save time at the airport by checking in online using the AirNZ app and uploading their vaccine pass to their Airpoints profile. Air New Zealand lounges will be open as usual, however social distancing practices are in place. Face coverings continue to be required when not eating and drinking.
US suspends some China flights
The US government said on Friday (21 January) that it would suspend 44 China-bound flights from the United States by four Chinese carriers in response to the Chinese government’s decision to suspend some US carrier flights over COVID-19 concerns. China has also suspended numerous US flights by Chinese carriers after passengers later tested positive. The US suspensions will begin on 30 January with Xiamen Airlines’ scheduled Los Angeles-to-Xiamen flight and run through March 29, the US Transportation Department said. The decision will cut some flights by Xiamen, Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.
Since 31 December, Chinese authorities have suspended 20 United Airlines, 10 American Airlines and 14 Delta Air Lines flights, after some passengers tested positive for COVID-19. Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, told Reuters on Friday the policy for international passenger flights entering China has “been applied equally to Chinese and foreign airlines in a fair, open and transparent way.” He called the U.S. move “very unreasonable” and added “We urge the U.S. side to stop disrupting and restricting the normal passenger flights” by Chinese airlines.”
China has all but shut its borders to travelers, cutting total international flights to just 200 a week, or 2 percent of pre-pandemic levels, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said in September. The number of US flights being scrapped has surged since December, as infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus soared to record highs in the United States.