As concerns rise about pressure on New Zealand quarantine facilities, Singapore Airlines has announced it will open up scheduled flights for returning Kiwis from some countries through Changi Airport.
And from July 1 Emirates will also return to New Zealand with three weekly scheduled passenger services direct from Dubai to Auckland which will put added pressure on managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
The Government says it is ”working constructively” with airlines to manage the inflow of returning New Zealanders as it looks for more accommodation for them during the mandatory 14-day isolation period.
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Although New Zealanders were warned by the Government to come home before the country shut its borders in March, thousands have done so since and many more want to return. They have so far cost taxpayers $80 million to house and feed them in hotels, some of them luxury properties.
Singapore Airlines said today it will over the next month fly twice return weekly into Auckland and once a week into Christchurch from ”approved” countries.
These include China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. All passengers must travel with the Singapore Airlines Group transiting through Changi Airport and return home in a Covid-safe manner.
“These channels are not about booking an overseas holiday as Australia and New Zealand’s borders remain closed to non-citizens,” said Singapore Airlines regional vice president South West Pacific, Philip Goh.
This morning the minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, Megan Woods, told RNZ the Government was aware of capacity increased and there were a range of options on the table to manage the flow of incoming travellers.
“We’re working very closely with the airlines to have a very detailed understanding of what the inflows and outflows from our quarantine and managed isolation facilities are,” she said.
“We’re working constructively with airlines, we’re saying that this is the situation on the ground. We need to manage demand at the time, we’re bringing on more capacity so we’re not saying we’re going to just manage with what we’ve got,” Woods told RNZ.
The government is looking at increasing capacity in the areas already being used for managed isolation, including Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and Rotorua and is investigating a co-payment scheme for those accommodated.
So far 21,000 returning Kiwis have cost the taxpayer an average of $3800 each.
Queensland will next week start charging up to A$2800 ($3000) per 14-day stay in quarantine.
Singapore Airlines is operating an Airbus A350 with more than 250 seats on its New Zealand routes. Emirates, which returns to New Zealand next Wednesday hasn’t specified its aircraft type for the service but its Boeing 777s which it is using on other renewed routes have capacity for between 380 and 430 passengers.
Air New Zealand is also flying Kiwis home directly from Los Angeles and via Australia.
The scheduled flights are additional to chartered repatriation flights from countries including China, India and Peru.
Two weeks ago Singapore opened up one-way transit channels through Changi which allowed foreign nationals stranded here to fly home via Changi Airport.
Singapore’s inbound flights to New Zealand via Changi are subject to strict conditions.
• Connections must be no longer than 48 hours.
• Customers can only travel on SIA Group (Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot) • Flights and cannot connect to other carriers once in Singapore.
• Customers can only travel between countries on the approved list.
• Customers must meet all departing and arriving Government requirements and restrictions.
• A total of 14 cities across six countries and territories are on the approved list, including the previously announced Australian cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, as well as New Zealand cities, Auckland and Christchurch.
Singapore Airlines has grounded most of its fleet and now with the increased flying still is operating at around 6 per cent capacity.