There have been so many changes to travel since the pandemic struck that it can be tough to stay on top of what’s what.
With Air New Zealand announcing today that domestic passengers will be required to be fully vaccinated or produce a negative Covid-19 test result from mid-December, we take a look at what Kiwis can expect on flights this summer. Whatever alert level or Covid-19 Protection Framework zone we happen to be in, it’s fair to say it won’t be business as usual.
Do I need to be fully vaccinated?
From December 14, 2021 to March 31, 2022 all Air New Zealand passengers aged 12 and over will be asked for proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result before checking into their domestic flights. All government-approved vaccines and tests are accepted. Kids aged 11 don’t require proof of vaccination or a test and can check in as usual.
Jetstar does not require domestic passengers to be vaccinated or take a Covid test. Asked whether it planned to do so, an airline spokesperson said “We will continue to follow the latest government advice, including complying with any vaccination and testing requirements. If there are any changes to the current domestic travel requirements, we will provide an update to our customers directly.”
* Covid-19: Air NZ to make full vaccination or negative test compulsory for domestic travel
* Covid-19: Opening Auckland border at 90 per cent target amid Delta outbreak ‘unwise’, experts say
* Cook Islands travel bubble: What you need to know before you go
Air Chathams chief operating officer Duane Emeny told Stuff on Monday it would likely apply to become an approved vaccine certificate business. This would mean passengers would need to present vaccine certificates to board.
How do I prove I’m vaccinated?
Air New Zealand passengers will need to prove their vaccination status using the Government’s My Vaccine Pass, which is currently under development.
Travellers are encouraged to download the Air New Zealand app to their phones so they can easily connect it to their vaccine pass.
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran told RNZ this will create “a verification process that will allow people to get a boarding pass and get on the plane”.
“There will be the touch of a button and that will connect you through to the My Vaccine Pass, which is getting built and digitally holds your vaccination records…You can begin that process 24 hours before you travel, and that will then take you straight through to the boarding pass and you can get on the plane.”
There are 10 ingredients in the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. A microchip is not one of them.
If you don’t have the app or a smartphone, you will need to go to the My Vaccine Pass website and “either print off or store the QR code that’s sitting on there that holds your vaccination status, and you’ll still be able to check in through the kiosk at the airport”, Foran said.
Questions remain over how 12- to 15-year-olds will prove their vaccination status. The Ministry of Health’s website says My Covid Record, which will be needed to get My Vaccine Pass, is not currently available to those aged 12 to 15.
“If you’re aged 12 to 15 and require proof of vaccination (for example, for overseas travel) you can request a confirmation letter,” the website says.
Foran said he was not aware this was the case, and that “if we find that to be the case we will adjust accordingly.”
How do I get tested?
If you’re travelling with Air New Zealand and not double dosed, you’ll need to get a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure. You’ll need proof of a negative result either in the form of a text message or a letter from a medical professional.
The airline said results would be accepted from either “free community testing” or a GP, but it is not clear whether free community tests will be available.
The Government’s Covid-19 website says free community testing stations may not be acceptable for travel clearance for international arrivals from Australia.
However, an Air New Zealand spokesperson reaffirmed that customers who were unable to show proof of vaccination status would be able to head to a community testing clinic to receive a free Covid-19 test.
The Ministry of Health has been approached for comment about whether unvaccinated travellers will be able to get free Covid-19 tests from community testing centres.
Will there be physical distancing at the airport and on the plane?
This will depend on which alert level or Covid-19 Protection Framework zone an airport is located in. As of today, physical distancing is required at the airport and while boarding. Customers are also encouraged to check in online or via the app to minimise contact with staff.
On board, passengers are spaced apart where possible, but you may find yourself seated next to a stranger if the plane is full or fairly full.
In the “red” and “orange” zones of the Covid-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system), one metre distancing is required in public facilities. Physical distancing is not required in the “green” zone.
An Auckland Airport spokesperson said operational staff have been preparing for “a number of scenarios to allow Kiwis to travel safely this summer.
“As we move to the Covid-19 Protection Framework – or traffic light system – some things are a consistent across all levels – the need to keep QR scanning, coming prepared with a face mask to wear in the terminal and on your flight, and to allow some space around you.
“We know airports can get busy, especially over the holiday period, and there are a number of places where queues can form – at check-in, through security or grabbing a coffee. We will be asking everyone to play their part and be mindful of keeping each other safe by allowing space and having any documentation on hand.”
Do I need to wear a mask?
Yes, all travellers are required to wear a face covering in the airport and on flights, and this is set to continue under the “red”, “orange” and “green” zones of the traffic-light system. You can bring your own or pick a mask up at the boarding gate.
Will drinks and snacks be served?
Air New Zealand has suspended its food and beverage services on domestic flights, but water is available on request. An airline spokesperson said it hadn’t yet decided when to bring the service back.
Meals and snacks are available for purchase on Jetstar flights with modified card-handling procedures.
I’m thinking of flying to or from Auckland this summer. When should I book?
While Aucklanders must wait until next week to find out when they will be able to travel outside the region, Foran predicted it will be a busy summer in the air.
“I think it will build pretty quickly because there’ll be some real pent-up demand in many parts of the country for people to be able to connect with their whānau, and of course we’re going through to Christmas.”
Air New Zealand looks to be picking December 6 as the day Auckland’s borders open, with domestic capacity out of the city ramping up from then with heavily reduced airfares. Jetstar has flights from Auckland from November 30, also at reduced rates.
Generally, the earlier you book, the better the fares on offer, but it pays to read the fine print first as some fares are not refundable.
What are my options if my flight is affected by travel restrictions?
An Air New Zealand spokesperson said the airline’s Covid policy remains in place, so customers will be able to place their booking in credit if their flight is cancelled due to Government-mandated travel restrictions. Those with “flexirefund” fares will be entitled to a refund.
Under the airline’s new fare structure, “flexirefund” fare holders are entitled to a refund if they choose not to travel, and can change the date, time, destination and origin of their flight until departure free of charge.
“Flexichange” fare holders can change the date, route and time of their flight until departure free of charge, but are not entitled to a refund. Those who’ve bought the cheaper “seat” and “seat+bag” fares can change the date and time of their flights on the day of travel, but must pay applicable fees. They are also not entitled to a refund.
Jetstar also offers credit vouchers to those whose flights are impacted by lockdowns or border restrictions. Depending on your fare type, you may also be entitled to a refund.
Jetstar’s “Fly Flexible” policy, which runs until December 31, entitles you to change your date of travel without charge. With some flights, you can choose to buy “Farecredit”, which entitles you to a credit voucher if you decided to cancel your booking for any reason.
Will lounges be open?
All Air New Zealand domestic and regional lounges other than Auckland and Hamilton are currently open, but numbers are limited as a result of physical distancing requirements.
Auckland and Hamilton could be open by summer if the regions shift to the new Covid-19 Protection Framework.