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Fewer flights but full staff commitment at Auckland Airport

There were only a handful of planes arriving at Auckland Airport yesterday, but the Kiwis returning on a repatriation flight from South America were welcomed by a full contingent of airport operational staff yesterday morning.

The LATAM Dreamliner, flight LA1163, landed at 5am on Wednesday morning with around 60 passengers on board. The flight originated in Lima, Peru and connected via Santiago, Chile.

Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport’s general manager aeronautical commercial, says with commercial services between New Zealand and South America now suspended due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the government-chartered repatriation flight provided the only chance for Kiwis to return home.

“We still have a limited number of commercial services to Asia, the Middle East, Australia and the United States, but this was it for South America. So, it’s great to be able to welcome these New Zealanders back home in these extraordinary times, and we’re proud to be playing our part.”

In April 2019, Auckland Airport saw about 58,000 passengers a day – that number is now down to around 3500. The vast majority are travellers leaving New Zealand and returning home overseas. The few passengers that are arriving at Auckland Airport must now undertake a minimum of 14 days of managed isolation or quarantine in an approved facility on arrival.

Since the first COVID-19 repatriation flight, Air New Zealand’s service from Wuhan on February 6, there have been 30 repatriation flights going in and out of Auckland Airport, carrying around 9500 passengers.

Scott says the airport had coordinated with government agencies to facilitate yesterday’s arrival.

“A lot of work goes on behind the scenes between a multitude of different organisations to enable these repatriation flights, and together we have worked hard to develop a smooth process for managing services. Each new service brings different challenges, often at very short notice, especially for airlines such as Swiss International Airlines and Lufthansa which are new to New Zealand.”

He says the airport remained committed to maintaining a safe and reliable operation, with a full contingent of essential operational staff on board to support repatriation flights.

“Whether we have one flight coming in or 100, we have the same number of behind-the-scenes, essential operational staff on the ground to keep the terminals running and the airfield safe. At any given time, we have about 70 people on site, from the crews running emergency services to the team in the operations centre. We are immensely proud of them and the role they’re playing in supporting people to fly home.”

Scott says fewer repatriation services were expected in the weeks ahead.

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