15 Mar 2020

Airlines overwhelmed with calls after new travel rules

7:48 pm on 15 March 2020

The hospitality and tourism industries are scrambling to keep up with fallout from the spread of Covid-19, and airlines are asking for only urgent inquiries.

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Photo: 123RF

Airlines are being run ragged implementing the tough new travel restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus, said Justin Tighe-Umbers, the head of the Board of Airline Representatives.

From 1am Monday all incoming travellers, including New Zealand citizens, will have to self-isolate for two weeks, except those coming from the Pacific Islands.

Tighe-Umbers called the changes a swift and unexpected measure for airlines.

"There've been significant higher volumes through the call centres for airlines and travel agents, and that's why we call on people if they're not travelling in the next 48 hours to delay that call."

"We are asking all passengers to please be patient while airlines manage the enormous logistics around the new situation."

He said their 28 airline members are preparing for ongoing challenges as the situation develops.

"Airlines know they have a duty of care to get passengers home. They are used to major disruptive events, but the crisis around Covid-19 is unprecedented."

Air New Zealand said their contact centre has been flooded with inquiries, and also asked for patience.

"[We're] currently experiencing a very high volume of customer enquiries through our Contact Centre and social media channels."

The airline asked people to first check the Travel Alerts page on their website before calling, and for customers booked through a travel agent to deal with them, instead of calling the contact centre.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

However the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked people to contact airlines and travel providers before asking the government for help with disrupted travel plans.

The ministry could not confirm how many New Zeanders are currently overseas, but says it's helping a number of people impacted by Covid-19 health measures and travel restrictions.

It said airlines and other travel providers will have the most up-to-date information about flight availability.

Hotel industry leaders say they are concerned about the lack of clarity when checking in guests who may be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

From 1am on Sunday, travellers from overseas, apart from the Pacific Islands, must isolate themselves for two weeks.

Hotel owner Sunny Kaushal said it's a major concern for many hotel managers and owners are confused about the additional costs, and whether or not to turn away visitors.

He said one in seven jobs are linked to the tourism industry and he hopes the government can clear things up quickly.

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