A family are spending their two-week Covid-19 managed isolation in style after being upgraded to a penthouse suite in Auckland’s Grand Millennium hotel.
Officials say the extra cost associated with the stay is being borne by the family, not taxpayers, and they were upgraded by the hotel due to “particular employment and child-based needs”.
While room upgrades for managed isolation do occur, it is only the second time in seven months the suite has been used.
Returning Kiwis are not able to choose where they carry out their isolation. Many are forced to sweat out their mandatory 14-day quarantine in cramped, standard rooms, often while juggling work commitments and bored, restless kids.
A newly introduced voucher system has been controversial, with many expat Kiwis desperate to get home unable to secure a spot.
Act leader David Seymour questioned if the same opportunities the family received were available to all returning Kiwi travellers.
“I don’t begrudge people if they have the means of getting a better deal.
“My only question is where’s the transparency and why isn’t this kind of flexibility open to everybody, not just people apparently in the know?”
A Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) spokesman confirmed the recently arrived family were upgraded to a penthouse suite on the four-star hotel’s 12th floor.
Standard rooms at the hotel are 36sq m and usually charged out commercially at about $250 a night.
It is not clear which suite the family were moved to. The hotel’s suites range in size from 72sq m for a Junior Suite with Balcony up to 108sq m M Suite, which typically costs about $800 a night.
The “elegant apartment-style accommodation” boasts an entrance foyer, floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious separate bedroom with Californian king bed and open plan living. It also comes with a luxury bathroom, complete with “his and hers” vanities, and offers views over Auckland City.
The MIQ spokesman would not provide details about the family, saying only “the parent is a New Zealander”.
“A decision to allow the movement to this suite was made to accommodate their circumstances. For privacy reasons we will not be providing further information.”
The Government introduced a charge for returning Kiwis in August to recoup some of the multimillion-dollar cost of managed isolation.
Incoming travellers must now pay $3100 for the first person in the room, $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child over the age of 3.
The spokesman confirmed the family were paying the additional cost associated with the penthouse suite, but declined to reveal the total price, citing commercial sensitivity.
Grand Millennium management made the decision to upgrade the family following recommendations from an Auckland DHB “wellbeing team”.
The hotel and wellbeing team managed upgrade requests and worked with incoming passengers to find suitable rooms.
“Movements of guests to another room does occur in facilities, primarily for wellbeing reasons, such as claustrophobia, or to provide access to sunlight for pregnant women, for maintenance issues or when couples are separating.
“Families with a number of children may also request adjoining rooms, or a large room with multiple beds. Generally, rooms are allocated according to the capacity of the facility, best use of the room configuration, or to suit particular needs of the guests.”
The Herald put questions to Grand Millennium management but the hotel did not respond.
Seymour said he knew of many people with difficult managed isolation experiences who would love the chance to upgrade rooms.
He felt more flexible arrangements were needed to cater for those who could afford better package deals, but also for those who’d prefer cheaper options.
Meanwhile, a family of four in managed isolation at another Auckland hotel say they were not offered an upgrade and had to fight to get adjoining rooms.
The father said they were originally placed in a tiny single room, making it impossible for him to work or for his two preschoolers to sleep.
After complaining, they were given adjoining rooms but would have to pay extra if they weren’t granted an exemption, he said.
He said the MIQ system did not cater well for families. He would have considered upgrading to a suite had the hotel offered it, depending on the cost.
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