12 Aug 2020

Covid-19 travel restrictions: Masks on flights as measures take effect

3:52 pm on 12 August 2020

People heading to Auckland Airport are being strongly urged to wear a mask in the terminal and on their flight.

Passengers arriving at Auckland Airport

People who have to be at Auckland Airport are strongly advised to wear masks (file picture). Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

All passengers will be required to wear masks on domestic flights.

More than 13,000 people are expected through the domestic terminal today, after the decision to move Auckland into alert level 3 from midday.

To help with physical distancing, access to terminals will be restricted to people travelling that day.

There will be only a limited range of food and beverage shops selling essential items, so people are being told to come prepared with anything they need.

Aviation Coalition chair Justin Tighe-Umbers said scheduled flights to and from Auckland will still operate under level 3.

Under alert level 3 there are some restrictions on who can travel to Auckland:

  • You can fly into Auckland on a domestic flight if you are returning home, an essential worker or are coming to Auckland to undertake an essential service
  • You can travel in Auckland to catch an international flight departing from Auckland Airport
  • You can also transit through Auckland Airport to catch an outbound international flight
  • You can transit through Auckland Airport domestically on flights, but must not leave at Auckland unless you live in Auckland or are undertaking essential travel
  • You can leave on a departing flight out of Auckland Airport if you are travelling home or are leaving to undertake an essential service.

Non-Auckland residents using the Auckland Airport will need a valid ticket or itinerary to travel.

Tighe-Umbers said domestic air travel continues for destinations outside of Auckland.

Physical distancing of 2 metres will be implemented at airports, including those which are only on level 2 restriction.

It is difficult for airlines to put social distancing in place on board aircraft at such short notice, but it is likely that free middle rows on jets will come into play, particularly if the level 3 restrictions are extended beyond Friday, he said.

International flights will continue.

But Tighe-Umbers said the international airlines are struggling to operate into New Zealand with only around 13,000 people a month able to fly into New Zealand - down from nearly 600,000 in a typical month pre-Covid.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Air New Zealand's call centre this morning had a waitlist of more than 400 people trying to change their flights ahead of the alert level change at midday.

The airline's chief executive, Greg Foran, said they were working to ensure flights were socially distanced and it was already evident that some customers were deciding not to travel.

Masks will be provided for passengers leaving from Auckland from midday today and passengers coming into Auckland will also be encouraged to wear a mask, Foran said.

He said Air New Zealand has a refund policy for passengers who have seats on any flight which has to be cancelled due to social distancing requirements.

"But as you would expect last night the call centre started to light up and I know that as recently as about 15 minutes ago we had 450 people waiting in our call centres.

"We will work through with our customers, do the right thing there if the flight is changed and they don't want to fly or we change it or whatever, we'll do what we can to get them on the right flight and look after them."

Follow the latest on RNZ's live blog

Police establish checkpoints under alert level 3

Police are operating nine checkpoints in and out of Auckland as the city moved to alert level 3.

The checkpoints implemented by police in Auckland under alert level 3.

Photo: NZ Police

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said checkpoints would be used to control those coming in and out of Auckland.

He said there would be five checkpoints to the north of the city, and four in the south.

"These [will] initially be staffed by police but we may engage support from partners including the Defence Force in due course."

Vehicles will be stopped and drivers will be questioned.

Road Policing team supervisor Counties Manukau Andrew Heath, who is at the Bombay checkpoint south of the city, said traffic management was in place southbound and northbound.

"All commercial vehicles are going to be travelling straight through and light vehicles who are travelling south and north into Auckland city will be pulled off the motorway, spoken to by police staff and the purpose of their journey will be ascertained."

Anyone whose journey was non-essential would be turned around, he said.

"If you've got essential business or you're an essential worker, if you have to cross the borders you'll be allowed to go on your way and non-essential travel into Auckland city is not permitted.

"Non-essential travel, you'll be turned around."

Coster said the police's first tactic would be to educate and inform those not complying, before moving to enforcement.

All police officers in Auckland have been directed to wear masks when dealing with the public.

They will also have other protective gear as necessary.

Auckland public transport operating with distancing and masks

In a statement, Auckland Transport said that people using public transport should maintain physical distancing of 2m and wear a mask.

Customers will not be able to pay cash on public transport and are advised to register their AT HOP card to help with contact tracing should it be required.

Anyone travelling on public transport is asked to avoid peak times unless it is necessary, such as going to work or school.

Buses, trains and ferries will continue to operate to their existing timetables until further notice.

School buses in Auckland will operate as normal today, but may be timetables may be altered for Thursday and Friday.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs