The risk of catching Covid-19 while travelling by air should not be compared with travelling on a public bus, according Justin Tighe-Umbers, co-chair of the New Zealand Aviation Coalition (NZAC).
'Every time we go into Alert Level 2 or higher, two thirds of the domestic network gets taken out,' Tighe-Umbers says. 'That's the knock on effect of having to keep 30% to 50% of seats empty depending on the aircraft type. The problem lies with the Ministry of Health's requirement for physical distancing on aircraft under Level 2.
'That requirement reduces the number of flights as airlines respond. In simple terms, it means not as many ticket paying passengers are covering the cost of each flight. Airlines can not be expected to fly where they can't cover costs.'
He says measures like hygiene protocols, aircrew wearing protective equipment, restrictive food and beverage services, limiting the use of toilets to certain areas of the aircraft and the mandatory use of face masks by passengers all help prevent transmission.
'Modern aircraft are also one of the most controlled environments that people could experience. Air is exchanged with fresh air from outside every two or three minutes on most aircraft. That is 20 to 30 times more frequently than most office buildings.'
Tighe-Umbers says while the government obviously recognises people want to travel regionally and there are economic benefits from that, it also needs to recognise physical distancing on aircraft imposes heavy costs.
Social distancing broad brush 'won't work'
Air Chathams is warning that the government announcement on the requirement to social distance passengers will ultimately make air travel more expensive, particularly on smaller regional aircraft, whilst piling 'more commercial pain' on airlines already hurting after emerging from the first lockdown.
'It is impossible for government to administer a broad brush requirement to socially distance and believe it will be effective on a multitude of different aircraft types, especially when separation of passengers during boarding and deplaning at many regional ports can not be achieved,' says Air Chathams chief operating officer, Duane Emeny.
Air Chathams will have a keen interest in the opening up of Norfolk Island to Australian visitors on 10 July, says airline and charter general manager Duane Emery.
A ‘technically overseas destination’ that is reached without leaving New Zealand is gaining popularity amongst consumers and consequently providing opportunities for the travel trade.
Tourism Chatham Islands manager, Jackie Gurden, says one of the key drivers for growth right now is the inability of Kiwis to head offshore for their holidays. ‘One operator has completely filled tours with people who have cancelled their overseas trip, and they weren’t necessarily existing clients.’
Air Chathams is slowly relaunching scheduled flights from its Auckland Airport base to Whakatane, Whanganui and the Kapiti Coast commencing 24 May.
Airline management have been working with the district councils to agree on a way forward that allows the airline, which has suffered a 90% drop off in revenue during Covid-19, a lower risk way to reinstate flights while demand and confidence to travel by air returns to the domestic network.
When Benny Ford opened The Black Anchor Bar in Norfolk Island last November, he filled a gap in the market. He opened a casual bar where people could relax after work, with a cocktail, craft beer or wine. Open Thursday to Saturday from 5pm till midnight, The Black Anchor serves ‘pop up’ bar food from offsite caterers – dumplings on Thursdays, tacos on Fridays and American barbecue food on Saturdays.
The Black Anchor is a fitting name for someone who has worked for 20 years as a sea captain, and grew up on boats. Doubling as port manager by day, Ford has lived on the island for three years. ‘Norfolk Island is the place that everyone in Byron Bay
New tourism and hospitality operations are popping up in Norfolk Island to cater for the younger demographic that is discovering the destination.
These include activity operators, eateries and shops, says Rose Evans, team leader tourism and economic development. ‘We’ve seen great growth in new businesses that have a younger vibe and are environmentally aware, like eco-store, Prenke.’
Air Chathams is already aiming for a second service to Norfolk Island following the launch of its weekly flight on Friday.
‘Historic data from when other airlines operated the route (including Air New Zealand) indicates that is very possible,’ says Air Chathams general manager Duane Emeny who draws parallels with the airline’s Chatham Island services.‘We have been