24 Mar 2020

Celebrations for some as new travel deadline announced

11:26 pm on 24 March 2020

There's been a mixed reaction among students to the relaxation of the domestic travel deadline ahead of the Covid-19 lockdown.

32178804 - melbourne australia - september 13, 2014: air new zealand check in counter at melbourne airport

Photo: 123rf.com

A new deadline of midnight Friday has been set after flights and ferry bookings became overwhelmed ahead of the midnight Wednesday deadline.

Dunedin student Georgia Mansell said she spent a sleepless night refreshing the Air New Zealand website in an attempt to get flights so she could get home to Taupō.

She eventually got onto a flight to Auckland via Christchurch and will drive the rest of the way.

Mansell reckoned the domestic travel deadline was always too tight.

"The announcement [of the relaxed deadline] definitely should have been done as the announcement [of the shutdown] was being made or in the next hours because that would have changed my whole experience because I wouldn't have had as much panic."

Mansell said when news of the relaxed deadline came through there were scenes of jubilation among her friends.

Meanwhile, fellow Dunedin student Nick Oliver said he was initially gutted when he missed the midnight Wednesday deadline, but now he had cancelled his flight home to Auckland on Thursday.

He said he and his mates had decided travelling home among hundreds of people would put his family at more risk of getting the virus.

"I don't want to put my mum and dad, my sister, at risk. I don't want to do anything like that. My mum will still have to go and feed my grandmother and I would hate to compromise my grandmother's health."

Air New Zealand said at this stage it had no plans to put on extra flights on Thursday and Friday.

The airline said it was planning to run its normal schedule although it expected to see an increase in the number of people flying.

It said it would look at adding extra capacity if demand warranted it.

KiwiRail will provide extra ferry sailings

KiwiRail has decided to provide an extra two days' sailings of its interislander ferries - moving an extra 3000 people in each direction, group chief executive Greg Miller says.

Passengers are being treated as a priority over freight on sailings of the Kaiarahi and the Kaitaki, he said.

Details of the new sailings will be available on the Interislander website in the morning.

In addition, the Capital Connection passenger service between Palmerston North and Wellington will run tomorrow, but will then be suspended.

Miller said KiwiRail crews were working around the clock to try and help people get to where they needed to be.

After the new deadline of midnight on Friday, only essential service workers and freight would be carried on the ferries.

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