As the COVID-19 situation continues to deteriorate in Sydney lockdown, Air New Zealand is stepping up the pace of flights from Sydney to repatriate New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. Sydney is bracing for a long lockdown and New Zealand has suspended non-quarantine travel from the city. Meanwhile, thousands of Kiwis are crying out to return home.
New Zealand suspends non-quarantine flights from Sydney as city locks down
Sydney recorded 117 cases of community COVID transmission on Sunday – a large number for this part of the world. Only around 9% of the Australian population are fully vaccinated, and vaccines remain difficult to obtain in Sydney for many age groups. Sadly, instead of a well-managed vaccine rollout, screaming politicians and healthcare bureaucrats are in crisis mode and busy shutting down Australia’s largest city.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand hit the pause button to travel without quarantine from Sydney (SYD) on June 22. Travelers to New Zealand from Sydney, including the Kiwis, should self-quarantine for 14 days at a supervised facility upon arrival. Flights to New Zealand from Sydney have started to dry up. Thousands of Kiwis stranded in Sydney appeared to be enduring a dark, confined winter.
“The number of cases in Sydney shows no signs of leveling off, and NSW has stepped up restrictions even further today,” New Zealand Government Minister Chris Hipkins said on Friday. To get its residents home, the New Zealand government is setting up repatriation flights run by Air New Zealand this week. Nine flights from Sydney went on sale on Monday, selling out in 15 minutes.
Nine Air New Zealand repatriation fights over 10 days
With each repatriation flight carrying between 40 and 60 passengers, seats were at a premium. Since all passengers will be directly quarantined for 14 days upon arrival and sleeping space is limited, the number of passengers is capped or “managed” to match the available quarantine beds.
“About 1000 rooms over the next fortnight will be prepared”, said Mr. Hipkins. “I want to reassure people that they can come back, but we ask for patience. In the meantime, we strongly advise against flying to Sydney unless they are living there normally and returning home. “
Air New Zealand sold the seats on a first come, first served basis. According to the New Zealand online news site Scoop, nine Air New Zealand flights will be operated between July 13 and 23. Seven of these flights will serve Sydney – Auckland (AKL) and two will serve Sydney – Christchurch (CHC).
“We would like to be able to bring more Kiwis home to their families, but we are limited by the availability of quarantine places”, says Leanne Geraghty, Director of Sales and Customers, Air New Zealand.
Qantas is also assisting the repatriation effort
Two flights will be operated on July 13, one to Auckland and one to Christchurch. Flights to Auckland will follow on July 14, July 15, July 16, July 17, July 18, July 20 and a final flight to Christchurch on July 23. About 20% of available seats were reserved for people needing compassionate travel
“Our teams worked tirelessly with the government this weekend to set up these managed return flights”, Ms Geraghty said.
Meanwhile, Australian airline Qantas is also running several repatriation flights to New Zealand this week. Qantas’ online timetables for the current week show that flights continue between Sydney and Auckland and weekly services to Wellington (WLG) and Christchurch.