In a sign of what soon may become an industry standard, Air New Zealand has announced it will require all passengers on its international flights to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The air carrier will begin enforcing the policy on February 1, 2022.
“We’ve been hearing from both customers and employees that vaccination is important to them,” Greg Foran, Air New Zealand’s chief executive officer, explained in a statement. “It came through loud and clear in our recent consultation process with employees and we want to do everything we can to protect them. Mandating vaccination on our international flights will give both customers and employees the peace of mind that everyone onboard meets the same health requirements as they do.”
New Zealand has taken what many consider to be the strictest lockdown measures since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The country closed its borders to foreigners in March 2020 and those borders remain closed.
That’s about to change next year, though. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently told the Associated Press that the country will open its borders next year and begin to allow travelers to arrive on a carefully managed basis. Waiting until next year gives the country time to finish its vaccine rollout.
Under the plan, fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries won’t need to quarantine upon arrival in New Zealand. However, travelers arriving from medium-risk countries will need to complete some form of yet-to-be-announced quarantine. Meanwhile, unvaccinated travelers and those arriving from high-risk countries will need to stay 14 days in a quarantine hotel run by the military.
Arriving In New Zealand
Air New Zealand’s vaccination requirement will apply to all travelers 18 and older. Unvaccinated passengers will be required to present proof that vaccination was not a viable option for them for medical reasons.
“It’s not just customers who will be required to be vaccinated — it’s everyone on board an Air New Zealand aircraft travelling internationally, adding to the health and safety measures we already have in place,” Foran explained.
“As with anything, there will be some that disagree. However, we know this is the right thing to do to protect our people, our customers, and the wider New Zealand community,” Foran continued. “We’ll spend the next few months making sure we get this right to ensure it works as smoothly as possible for our customers. This also gives anyone wanting to travel next year plenty of time to get their vaccination.”
Air New Zealand’s move isn’t wholly unexpected. Last month, Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, announced it will soon require all passengers on its international flights to be vaccinated against COVID-19. That requirement will take effect when the airline resumes worldwide operations in December, Alan Joyce, chief executive of the airline’s parent company said in an interview.
The Current Situation
New Zealand recorded 31 new COVID-19 cases on Monday — mostly in Auckland, which has been in lockdown for nearly 50 days. The total number of cases in the country’s latest outbreak stands at 1,357, Reuters reports.
Right around 2 million New Zealanders have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. That means approximately 48 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
You might not be able to visit New Zealand right now, but you can start planning for a trip next year. To help with your planning, be sure to read: