Justin Tighe Umbers, BARNZ Justin Tighe Umbers, BARNZ

BARNZ: Risk of connections ‘withering on vine’; need to retain staff through this year

New Zealand could see its air connectivity ‘withering on the vine’ next year if we can’t project a clear plan soon on how we plan to open up safely to the world, says Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ) executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers.

He says there is also an urgent need for Government support to keep many of the hundreds of workers who werere-employed when the trans-Tasman bubble opened kept in jobs through to the end of the year.

‘As the Northern Hemisphere opens up with flights around Europe and North America, and between the two, some of our members are reporting increasing pressure from network planners to take aircraft onto these routes. That’s starting to happen.’

However, he says New Zealand does have ‘a little bit of time’ to start reconnecting and give airlines confidence in the future of this market. ‘They’ll be getting though the northern winter but after that, if we haven’t started opening up, a number of carriers may be lost completely.’

Tighe-Umbers says he was buoyed by a survey published in the New Zealand Herald yesterday that indicated more than 50% of the population agree we should move beyond the elimination goal once more than 70% of the population is vaccinated.

‘I think it is a matter of time before we see the switch to allowing travellers in based on a risk basis, depending on whether they are vaccinated, where they have been and testing requirements.’

He says retaining a workforce for when flights do dial back up is currently a big challenge for airlines. It now looks like trans Tasman flights won’t resume until at least December.

‘We had hundreds of staff re-employed in April and the challenge is to hold onto them through to December or January.

‘It is already an unattractive sector to many people because of the way we have had to dial up and down. We’ve got a funding request through to the minister at the moment so we can try to protect ground handlers and some of the more vulnerable parts of the sector. We’re waiting to hear.’

He says BARNZ, airlines and airports are working with government on Future Borders. ‘The key is getting it done by the end of the year.’

Related items