Air New Zealand has sought to reassure passengers about the safety on board its continued flights to Shanghai as other airlines halt or drastically scale back services to China because of the coronavirus.

The Kiwi airline has posted a short video on its travel alerts page featuring its chief medical officer Ben Johnston talking about steps being taken to minimise the risk of infections on the daily Dreamliner flight to Shanghai.

In that city there have been around 100 confirmed cases of the virus which has killed more than 130 people throughout China.

"I think passengers should be assured the situation is being very closely monitored and very well managed at an international level," said Johnston.


Premium - Aviation outlook: What will fly in 2020
American Airlines' big New Zealand move - Auckland to Dallas, Christchurch to LA
Premium - Boeing 737Max return the big question for 2020 says International Air Transport Association
Premium - American Airlines' big NZ push: What's behind it

Video will play in
Play now
Don't auto play

Never auto play
Air New Zealand Chief Medical Officer Dr Ben Johnson discusses how the airline is helping customers to stay well while travelling. Video Air New Zealand

He said the airline was being updated regularly on new developments from the International Air Transport Association which had access to the latest developments by the World Health Organisation.

Passengers who were feeling unwell before flying should contact their doctor for advice, he said.

"If a customer is unwell in flight our cabin crew are very well trained to deal with a range of medical conditions and they have medical equipment on board to be able to assist."

Crew had access to protective gear such as masks and gloves and were trained to deal with a range of medical conditions. They could also contact medical specialists around the world.

"Aircraft have very sophisticated cabin air conditioning systems that filter out organisms such as viruses from the air that is recirculated through the cabin," he said.

Travellers, many wearing masks, in Shanghai. Photo / AP
Travellers, many wearing masks, in Shanghai. Photo / AP

Cleaning agents used at the end of a flight were effective against viruses such as the coronavirus.

E tū union has urged its aviation sector members to be alert to any threat to health and safety.


While Air New Zealand is continuing to fly, British Airways halted all flights to China and American Airlines suspended Los Angeles flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing as efforts to contain a new virus intensifies, Associated Press reports.

Air Canada, Air India and South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air are also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia's Lion Air plans to do the same. Other carriers including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, Air Canada and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing services.

There are around 40 weekly services between New Zealand and China, including Hong Kong, by airlines including Air NZ, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, China Eastern, Air China and Hainan Airlines.

Canning services is challenging for airlines as passengers are stranded at each end.

Air New Zealand said today its Shanghai services are either full, or at near capacity this week.

When the Sars outbreak hit in 2003 there were no direct flights between New Zealand and China. Then about 70,000 visitors from China came to New Zealand but this has grown to more than 400,000 a year.

That surge reflects the big increase in outbound travel from China and the challenge for health authorities to contain the outbreak.

In 2003, about 20 million people travelled overseas from the country while this has now grown to more than 150 million a year.