Airline group pushes for wage help after trans-Tasman bubble pause

Author
Grant Bradley, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 23 Jul 2021, 3:26PM
The burst transtasman bubble has been felt at Sydney Airport. Photo / Juliette Sivertsen
The burst transtasman bubble has been felt at Sydney Airport. Photo / Juliette Sivertsen

Airline group pushes for wage help after trans-Tasman bubble pause

Author
Grant Bradley, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 23 Jul 2021, 3:26PM

An airline group says aviation businesses affected by the suspension of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel should be able to claim wage support.

The Board of Airline representatives says the eight-week pause comes as many airline staff had been re-hired.

"It's tough. This could see a lot of people put back on reduced hours and pay, or going into furlough again," board executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers said.

"I'd like to see the Government offer wage assistance to those parts of the sector that are going to be hit hardest until quarantine-free travel with Australia is reinstated."

The Government has paid out more than $13 billion in wages subsidies since the pandemic hit.

Major aviation sector recipient Air New Zealand received more than $115 million.

Earlier this year it rehired some Airbus A320 cabin crew among close to 4000 staff it had laid off, to staff trans-Tasman flights.

Tighe-Umbers said airlines were now working hard to get people home.

"The numbers of New Zealanders currently in Australia is obviously increased by the fact it is school holidays," Tighe-Umbers said.

"These holidaymakers would be booked to come home in the next few days, so the remainder of the week will give others who may be visiting family and friends, or across the Tasman on business, a chance to bring their bookings forward."

He said airlines wanted to see a quick vaccination rollout.

"This suspension just shows how important it is to get the vaccines distributed in both countries as quickly as possible. Vaccinated populations will mean quarantine-free travel to Australia will be able to stay open much more reliably and start to open up this possibility for people travelling from long-haul destinations.”

Flight Centre NZ managing director David Coombes said it had thousands of customers booked to travel to Australia in the next eight weeks.

"As cases escalated over the past couple of weeks, we have been keeping in touch with our customers travelling in Australia to arrange earlier flights home," he said.

Flight Centre had many customers with flexible booking options contacting its staff to transfer flights to holiday in the Cook Islands or domestically as an alternative.

In a recent online survey of 1350 Flight Centre NZ customers, more than 57 per cent said they would travel internationally if they could quarantine at home instead of at a government-managed facility (MIQ).

Queensland, Australia was the most popular choice when asked which short-haul international destination customers were planning a trip to in the next 12 months (26 per cent), followed closely by the Cook Islands (25 per cent).

Auckland Airport said it supported any decision that protected the community from the spread of Covid-19.

"We know that 312,000 people have enjoyed reconnecting with family and friends back and forth across the Tasman since quarantine-free travel to Australia began on 19 April,'' Auckland Airport corporate services general manager Mary-Liz Tuck said.

The suspension would be disappointing for others who wished to do the same.

"Safeguarding the health and safety of travellers continues to be Auckland Airport's top priority and we recognise the key role the airport has to play as a first line of defence against the spread of Covid-19 in our community," she said.

The recovery of international travel continued to rely on high vaccination rates both here in New Zealand and overseas.

"We will be ready to reopen quarantine-free travel from Australia again as soon as it is safe to do so, and we will continue to support similar travel arrangements between New Zealand and other low risk countries such as the Cook Islands."

More than 207,000 travellers passed through Auckland Airport as part of the arrangement with the Cook Islands between May 17 and July 21.

Confidence in domestic travel remained strong, with traveller numbers returning to about 90 per cent of pre-Covid levels during the July school holidays.