Air New Zealand says a move to making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory for domestic passengers is under discussion.
Asked at the airline’s annual shareholders’ meeting today, chair Dame Therese Walsh said about it: ”I think it would be fair to say that remains on the table and is under current discussion.”
The airline was taking into account the country’s Covid response, what was happening in other countries and the impact of Covid-19 on the safety of passengers and crew.
Earlier this month the airline announced that from February 1 anyone travelling on its international network would need to be vaccinated.
Air New Zealand’s vaccination requirement will apply to all passengers aged 18 and older arriving or departing Aotearoa on an Air New Zealand aircraft. Passengers who are not vaccinated will be required to present proof that vaccination was not a viable option for them for medical reasons.
The airline’s chief executive Greg Foran said then it would take some time to consider whether it should do the same on its domestic network, one problem being that in some cases passengers had little alternative but to fly with the airline to some destinations.
Delta is spreading to the South Island and in the past week University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker has called for vaccination being a requirement for domestic flights.
Air New Zealand is 52 per cent owned by the Government but today Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said it was up to the airline to make the final decisions on whether vaccination certificates would be compulsory for domestic passengers.
Asked about any impact on revenue from the international requirement Walsh said it made sense from a health and safety perspective and many countries were now requiring passengers to be jabbed.
”It is the future of flying.”
She said there was an ”outstanding” rate of vaccination among Air New Zealand staff with 93 per cent of frontline employees now having had at least one vaccine and 88 per cent who are fully vaccinated.
”We are looking forward to international borders reopening and hope that if vaccination levels continue to increase that we will see some very positive developments during 2022.”
Another question related to domestic flight cancellations – which sparked anger and complaints to the Commerce Commission during the past week – and what the airline would do to improve its image.
Walsh said she and Foran had discussed media reports yesterday and said the airline was ”incredibly” focused on customer feedback.
Foran said the airline was ”obsessed” with getting it right for the customer.
It had brought in new fare structures and caps during the past year and demonstrated customer commitment.
However, alert level uncertainty made it difficult to operate and with little prospect of changed border rules for Auckland until the end of November at the earliest, the airline had taken the call to cancel many flights.
”We wanted to be clear to those customers that those flights were not going to go and so that means you’ve got 171,000 customers that you’ve cancelled that you’ve got to get the credit,” he said.
”Clearly, it’s a difficult process. There’s always ways that you can improve it but I would say that generally we get it right.”
The airline’s call centre was revamped last year and would be further improved.Call takers were handling 400 inquiries at any one time yesterday.
We’re putting in a new system that’s going to be much better and that will be in place by about the middle of December – it has been tough on our team tough on our customers,” said Foran.
”We take a lot of care trying to get this as right as we can in a very volatile situation.”
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