The self-isolation deadline has been pushed back to give airlines a bit of breathing room.

The Government initially announced the self-isolation measures would go into effect at 12am on Sunday night.

This has now been pushed back one hour to 1am.

Board of Airline Representatives director Justin Tighe-Umbers said the extra hour meant that no arrivals would be affected tonight, providing time to set up systems for the first arrivals tomorrow.

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He said both New Zealanders and overseas visitors would be allowed to board domestic flights to reach their intended destinations before being required to self-isolate.

Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said flights between Auckland and China have dropped from about 45 a week at this time last year to eight a week now.
He said no one yet knew what the impact of the self-isolation requirement for all non-Pacific arrivals would be, but it would clearly be "material".

However, Tighe-Umbers said airlines were expecting a short-term jump in travel in the next two weeks as New Zealanders come home earlier than planned and overseas visitors return sooner to their home countries.

He was aware of three extra trans-Tasman flights today to bring people in before the self-isolation rule comes into force.

Many passengers arriving on international flights today are wearing masks, but it is hard to find anyone else at the Auckland international terminal wearing masks.

Passengers arriving at Auckland are wearing masks. Photo / Simon Collins
Passengers arriving at Auckland are wearing masks. Photo / Simon Collins

Air New Zealand has been battling to cope with the massive increase in customer enquiries following the Prime Minister's announcement of travel restrictions yesterday.

To meet the demand, the airline is boosting the size of its contact centre and social media customer-care teams.

Air New Zealand senior manager of customer care Doug Grant says this is an unprecedented situation and that the airline is dealing with a very high volume of customer enquiries through its channels.

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"We have brought in additional staff to assist and are actively prioritising customer queries," he said.

"To ensure urgent cases are dealt with as quickly as possible, we strongly encourage customers to only contact us if their flight is departing within the next 48 hours."

Other measures the airline is incorporating include the deployment of larger aircraft to bring Kiwis back from Australia before the restrictions kick in.

This comes as a necessary step to meet the increased demand from customers who are looking to get back home before the self-isolation measures kick in.

Yesterday Ardern announced that any person from any country, excluding the Pacific islands, is now required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival to the country, and she encouraged all New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas.

As well as affecting thousands of people's travel plans, the move is expected to significantly impact Kiwis' jobs and the New Zealand economy.

Grant advised customers to check the Air New Zealand Travel Alerts page for information before getting in touch.

"We really appreciate the patience and understanding of all our customers at this difficult time," he said.

Air New Zealand is offering fare flexibility for customers affected by Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Customers with international flights affected by Covid-19 Government-imposed restrictions due to depart up until 31 March 2020 will be eligible to hold the value of their fare in credit for twelve months from the time of ticket purchase, receive a refund, or amend the date of their flight without change fees.

- Additional reporting by NZ Herald team.