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Flight restrictions causing school holiday uncertainty

Tourism Industry Aotearoa is calling on the Government to loosen physical distancing requirements on domestic aircraft to give families the opportunity to make school holiday bookings.

TIA chief executive Chris Roberts says the holidays could be a lost opportunity for the struggling tourism industry.

The current alert levels are scheduled to remain in place until at least 11:59pm on Wednesday, September 16. The holidays begin on September 26.

“People want to make their arrangements for the school holidays now. New Zealand might be back in Level 1 in time for the holidays, but that will be too late for many families to make plans,” says Chris.

“As we saw in the July school holidays, there is strong enthusiasm from Kiwis to explore their country and visit friends and family. However, many people’s travel plans may be thwarted by the current physical distancing requirements on aircraft.”

Under Level 2, Air New Zealand can sell only around 50 per cent of seats on their turboprop aircraft and 65 per cent on their domestic jets. Physical distancing is also increasing the price of flying because the cost is spread between fewer people.

Jetstar has temporarily withdrawn from the New Zealand market entirely because they say it is not viable to keep flying under physical distancing requirements.

“If social distancing remains in place, there just won’t be enough seats to meet demand during the school holidays. If people can’t fly, other businesses from accommodation providers to visitor attractions and restaurants also miss out.

“The Government should allow airlines to safely use all of the seats on their domestic flights under Level 2. It needs to listen to epidemiologists like Professor Michael Baker and Associate Professor Nick Wilson, who have both been reported in the media as saying mask use is sufficient for safe flying,” says Chris.

“With the school holidays just around the corner, families getting out to the regions will be a vital lifeline for struggling tourism operators.”

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