Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran says he expects some people will disagree with its move require all domestic passengers to be fully Covid-19 vaccinated or produce a negative test result from the middle of next month.
But a survey of its customers showed the majority wanted it.
“I’m sure there will be some people who will disagree with the decision but overwhelmingly the majority of our customers, we surveyed them, and it’s about 85 per cent said ‘please get on and do this’,” he told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB this morning.
The tough new move follows the airline’s decision to require vaccinations for international flights and growing concern during the Delta outbreak about unvaccinated passengers flying from Auckland to other parts of the country.
Foran said the change was aimed at reducing the spread of Covid, ahead of what is expected to be a busy summer as Kiwis reconnect with friends and whānau.
Air New Zealand aims to have the change in place by December 14 for an initial period until the end of March 2022 next year.
It will apply to all passengers aged 12 or older travelling on an Air New Zealand aircraft within the country. All vaccines and tests approved by the Government will be accepted.
The Government has promised to have a vaccine pass available by the end of November and the airline will have discussed its move with ministers before this morning’s announcement.Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised Aucklanders they will be able to move around the country for Christmas but has said checking somebody’s vaccination is easier for flying than when they drive out of the city.
Foran said for the most seamless experience, customers were encouraged to download the Air New Zealand mobile app to make it easy as possible to connect their vaccination status in the Government’s My Vaccine Pass under development with booking details, which will allow check-in.
“We have been working hard over the last week or so with Mattr who are building the My Vaccine Pass and we are going to be able to integrate that into our Air New Zealand travel app, the Koru app and that is going to allow people if they use that mobile app to effectively do this in a very seamless fashion.”
Foran said it would not be checking people’s vaccine passports at the gate.
“It is only for those people who have not been vaccinated – they will need to go and talk to one of our service representatives to get a boarding pass. We are making it as simple as possible particularly for those that are vaccinated.”
Those not fully vaccinated will be able to provide evidence of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours before departure – from either free community testing or their doctor.
If customers are unable to provide proof before their flight, they can put their fare into credit, or get a refund (if they have bought a refundable fare)
The change follows ”overwhelming feedback” from customers and staff calling for more protection during travel.
“We’re making this change so we can all travel our beautiful country over summer and fly with a peace of mind that everyone onboard is seated shoulder-to-shoulder against Covid,” said Foran.
“We’re doing it to protect vulnerable communities, for those with weakened immune systems or who can’t get vaccinated, for the elderly in our rest homes and our wee tamariki at home.”
In the latest 12-months, there were 8.2 million domestic passenger journeys.Before the pandemic more than 11 million flights were taken a year within the country.
The airline has had to balanced the risk of depriving unvaccinated passengers the opportunity to get places where they couldn’t by other means and the growing need for protection against Covid. The test requirement means that the unvaccinated will have the opportunity to fly.
Foran said customers will be flying this summer for a number of reasons, and it was the airline’s role to get them there.
”We don’t want to leave anyone behind, which is why we’re giving customers the choice to either be fully vaccinated or present a negative test.”
The airline says its new rules are the latest step in getting behind the public health effort, including mandating vaccinations for thousands of frontline staff and international customers, moving vaccines and vaccinators across New Zealand and the Pacific, and turning a 787 Dreamliner into a world-first ”Jabaseat” vaccination clinic during Super Saturday.
Asked if Foran was jealous of the fact that Australian airline Qantas had begun flying again internationally Foran admitted there was some envy.
“We would love to get these planes back in the air internationally. We would like to see some MIQ relaxation at some time but that is a decision for the government. In the meantime what we want to do is make sure we get Kiwis around the country safely this Summer.”
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