As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout picks up pace, Air New Zealand is hopeful that Kiwi travelers will have more options for international travel than just Australia and South Pacific islands. While speaking to local business leaders in Hamilton on the North Island on Tuesday, Air New Zealand’s chief executive gave his predictions regarding long-haul travel in 2022.
NZ Government to take a cautious approach
At the same time that Air New Zealand’s leadership was expressing cautious optimism on long-haul travel, an Australian visitor who had spent the weekend in Wellington tested positive for COVID-19 on his return to his home country. Indeed, during the man’s brief stay, he flitted between restaurants and cafes, a packed sports bar, and a busy art exhibit at the national museum.
Thus, given the current scare amongst the population and the New Zealand government’s great job in keeping New Zealand COVID-19 free, airline CEO Greg Foran believes they will take a pretty cautious approach to opening up the borders. When reporting on the Hamilton business leaders meeting, New Zealand news media website, Stuff quotes Greg Foran saying the following:
“My guess would be that when you get to a point where the COVID-19 vaccination is rolled out to such an extent that a community outbreak can feel like it’s controlled, my guess is we’ll start to consider some long-haul flights … maybe the beginning of next year.”
Air New Zealand has learned to adapt
The pandemic has taught Air New Zealand to be comfortable with not knowing what to expect, with the government telling it the same as the general public. Although, on occasion, Air New Zealand has received an advanced warning of impending lockdowns.
“One of the skills we’ve had to learn this last year is this flexibility within the organization, to spin on a dime because we don’t get any more notice really than what you do of what’s going to happen,” Foran said.
Following the recent COVID-19 outbreak in New South Wales, Air New Zealand canceled its flights from Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown to Sydney. Foran said that at the moment, New Zealanders are hesitant about traveling to Australia, fearing that they could get stuck there if New Zealand closed its borders.
Air New Zealand wants to resume USA flights
Looking to the future, Foran is eager for Air New Zealand to get back into the North American marketplace, saying that his airline is very competitive as it does not have the costs rival airlines have. Foran thinks that for travel to the USA, people may have to prove that they have been vaccinated, saying:
“I don’t think the United States will want that, but I think probably the New Zealand Government will,” Foran said.
Travelers may have to undergo COVID-19 testing before returning to New Zealand and might have to agree to go into managed isolation, at their own cost, if they catch the virus.
“I suspect that if you go to India … I’m guessing you’re doing 14 days managed isolation in New Zealand regardless.”
At the moment, it is difficult to predict how soon travel can return to normal, with COVID-19 cases now spreading amongst younger people. Vaccination is, of course, the key, but there is a long way to go towards ensuring a stable and certain long-haul market.
Do you think that long-haul international travel will return in 2022 for New Zealanders? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.