Air New Zealand scales back to just 12 international routes

As New Zealand and Australia impose tough border restrictions, flights between the two countries almost vanish.

By Chris Chamberlin, March 25 2020
Air New Zealand scales back to just 12 international routes

Between March 30 and May 31, Air New Zealand will reduce its international network to just 12 routes to match lighter demand and tighter government travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Star Alliance member will also tweak its domestic schedule to allow better connections onto its Tasman and Pacific routes, and set set up a special COVID-19 information hub on its website with further information.

Here is AirNZ's slimmed-down schedule as of March 30:

  • Auckland-Sydney: Three return services per week
  • Auckland-Brisbane: Two return services per week
  • Auckland-Melbourne: Two return services per week
  • Auckland-Rarotonga: One return service per week
  • Auckland-Fiji: One return service per week
  • Auckland-Niue: One return service per week
  • Sydney-Norfolk: One return service per week
  • Brisbane-Norfolk: One return service per week
  • Auckland-Los Angeles: Three return services per week
  • Auckland-Hong Kong: Two return services per week
  • Auckland-Shanghai: Return services on alternate days from 2 May

The airline says its Auckland-Hong Kong service will be retimed to run overnight "to maximise connection opportunities for cargo."

Airpoints status extended

As previously reportedAir New Zealand will give 12 months of free status to its Airpoints Elite, Gold and Silver tier members.

For top-tier Airpoints Elite members, an 'Elite Banked Year' will be added to their accounts by 31 March 2020, which will automatically be redeemed if the status is not maintained through the usual methods.

For Airpoints Gold and Silver members, the 12 months extension will be manually added to their accounts.

Even Airpoints members who have already retained their Gold or Silver tier through to 2021 can benefit from this offer, which will see that status extended a further 12 months into 2022.

Members on Parental Hold are also eligible and will see their extension granted at the end of the Parental Hold period.

PREVIOUS [MARCH 17, 2020] Air New Zealand will suspend over a dozen routes to Australia, and trim its five strongest trans-Tasman services to only a handful of flights each week, in light of strict border restrictions which have seen travel demand dry up.

The emergency schedule will take effect from March 30 through to June 30 2020, although AirNZ notes "these dates may change if demand reduces further." They represent an overall reduction in Trans-Tasman capacity of 80%.

The following routes have been cancelled entirely through to June 30, 2020:

  • Auckland-Adelaide
  • Auckland-Cairns
  • Auckland-Sunshine Coast
  • Auckland-Coolangatta (Gold Coast)
  • Auckland-Perth
  • Christchurch-Brisbane
  • Christchurch-Melbourne
  • Christchurch-Coolangatta (Gold Coast)
  • Wellington-Brisbane
  • Wellington-Melbourne
  • Queenstown-Melbourne
  • Queenstown-Sydney
  • Queenstown-Brisbane

On the five remaining trans-Tasman routes, the reduction in services will be as follows:

  • Auckland to Sydney: Reduced to seven return services per week
  • Auckland to Brisbane: Reduced to five return services per week
  • Auckland to Melbourne: Reduced to seven return services per week
  • Christchurch to Sydney: Reduced to two return services per week
  • Wellington to Sydney: Reduced to two return services per week

Air New Zealand is asking would-be travellers "to only contact the airline if they are due to fly within the next 48 hours or need immediate repatriation to New Zealand or their home country."

Flight changes, refunds for affected Air New Zealand passengers

Air New Zealand has several commercial policies in place for passengers affected by travel restrictions and flight changes, as well as those who chose not to travel even where flights are operating.

For flights between Australia and New Zealand where the airline can still get you to your destination on the same day as originally booked, passengers will be reaccommodated on those alternative flights: but are also permitted one free flight change, if they'd rather fly later.

Fare and tax differences may apply, particularly if the flight change is to a new destination, as opposed to a comparable flight on a different date.

The airline's normal refund policies apply in line with the fare type each traveller has purchased, although if your journey has been cancelled and there isn't a suitable alternative flight, check with the airline (or your travel agent) to confirm your eligibility.

Air New Zealand also advises that passengers with international flights booked for departure up until March 31 2020 who are affected by government travel restrictions (below) have additional options.

The value of that flight booking can be held as a credit valid for 12 months from the time of ticket purchase, or the date of the flight can be changed without fees, although any fare differences will apply.

Passengers with international flights booked up until March 31 2020 can also request a refund, although this has not currently been extended to flights departing after that date.

Travel restrictions between Australia, New Zealand

In trying to slow down the spread of the coronavirus and its toll on New Zealand's healthcare system, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern enacted tough new travel restrictions on Sunday March 15, effectively grinding trans-Tasman business travel to a halt.

All arriving international passengers, except for those touching down from Pacific Island nations, are now required to self-isolate in New Zealand for 14 days.

This applies to flights from Australia, and to citizens and residents of, and visitors to, New Zealand.

Read: NZ's new entry restrictions halt trans-Tasman business trips

Australia quickly followed, requiring all international arriving passengers from Monday March 16 to self-isolate for 14 days – again, including returning citizens and residents, as well as international business visitors and tourists.

Read: Coronavirus: how to self-isolate

Many other countries in the world are closing their borders entirely to tourists: for the latest advice, always check Smartraveller.

Smartraveller continues to advise that Australians "reconsider their need to travel" to every country in the world, including New Zealand. Except, that is, for countries with the even higher warning level of "do not travel", as has applied to China for most of the year so far.

Read: Australian Government advises against most overseas travel

Additional reporting by David Flynn.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.


22 Jan 2013

Total posts 82

What's happening with domestic flights. Are they being credited or refunded?

19 Mar 2020

Total posts 1

I am really upset. We booked our holiday from Melbourne to Wellington with a return date to Australia on Monday 23rd March.

We heard the government instruction to get back to Australia"as soon as possible by commercial airline" late on Tuesday 17th March. There was no specific close date given...just a very strong hint that Australian borders may close without notice.

Rather than risk our last weekend....a valuable time with family....our reason for coming being family birthdays this weekend, we booked and changed our return flights to Australia for Friday 20th March.

We were charged a re-booking fee and flight change at a total cost of $518 AUD! Now we see that AIRNEWZEALAND is still accepting bookings for our original Monday flight!

So we have lost an important weekend, that cost $518 extra to our original flight costs....whereas had the Australian government given us some idea of a minimum time before closure of the borders would occur...we may then have been able to judge if we had to change flights, or not.

As it is...we know things are not possible to judge but surely some idea could have been given?

After all...when NZ is low risk for the virus compared to Australia....and when a few days notice was able to bed given before public gatherings were doubt to assist Hillsong with its huge 15,000 person convention....and when Crown Casino is treated as an essential service...when that is absurd but keeps Morrison's donors to the LNP happy....two pensioners have now lost over half a week's pension in costs that could have been avoided.

The "as soon as possible" notice was too vague...and the charge to alter our flights was unfair! Most unfair!

The organization and rules are a farce, when instructions are not given clearly...or when other social and business sectors are treated as if they will cause no increased risk....compared to travellers entering Australia from NZ.

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