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Auckland Airport stands down volunteers

Auckland Airport decided on Wednesday to temporarily stand down airport volunteers, following the outbreak of COVID-19 and a swift reduction in passenger numbers, down 44 per cent on Monday compared to the same day last year for international travellers.

Every week the airport is supported by 80 volunteer ambassadors, widely known as the 'Blue Coats', who staff six helpdesks across the domestic and international terminals.

Travellers will still be able to access customer support by using phones stationed at the help desks and other airport customer service staff will be on site to assist.

"Our Ambassadors are treasured members of our airport community and this is only a temporary stand down," says Auckland Airport general manager operations Anna Cassels-Brown.

"Many have long-standing links to the airport, with a huge amount of knowledge, experience and community spirit. Their ability to calmly deal with almost any issue, from lost toys to giving directions, is absolutely invaluable.

"We will miss having them around the airport and we look forward to welcoming our Ambassadors back as soon as traveller numbers improve. Meanwhile, we recognise that some of our Ambassadors will miss the community contact and we are really committed to staying in touch with them regularly."

There has been a swift downward trend in traveller numbers since the outbreak of COVID-19. In the seven days to March 16 there was a 25 per cent reduction in international passenger numbers at Auckland Airport compared to the same period in 2019.

"These are extremely challenging times for our industry, and everyone in the Auckland Airport community. The runway is a piece of critical national infrastructure and our focus continues to be on maintaining airport operations and supporting government agencies in protecting New Zealand against the spread of COVID-19," says Anna.

Internally, Auckland Airport has adopted new ways of working to manage through the outbreak, including new social distancing protocols aimed at reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading. These include verbal greetings instead of hand shaking, the postponement or cancellation of non-essential face-to-face meetings, the use of technology to conduct meetings or manage teams and a temporary halt on all non-essential external visitors to operation-critical areas, such as the apron tower.

"We have also spent the last week or so identifying any staff who have compromised immune systems or are caring for the very young, elderly or people with similar conditions. This means we can provide support to these people directly with complete confidentiality as the situation continues to evolve," says general manager corporate services Mary-Liz Tuck.

To support the health and safety of its staff and travellers Auckland Airport has also increased the frequency of cleaning inside our terminals, particularly in toilet areas and family change facilities. This cleaning regime meets the standards set by the Ministry of Health. It has also made hand sanitisers available throughout the terminals.

Auckland Airport staff have the option of wearing masks and gloves if they feel more comfortable doing so.

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