Work is continuing on establishing a quarantine-free travel bubble with the Cook Islands despite of the plans being dealt a big blow by community spread of Covid-19 in this country.
Facilities to separate New Zealanders travelling to the Cook Islands from those returning from Covid afflicted countries were being set up at Auckland Airport ahead of a Government decision on the timing of an arrangement.
But now New Zealand again has community spread of the disease which the aviation sector says is a setback.
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Justin Tighe-Umbers, co-chair of the New Zealand Aviation Coalition says plans had been set back by at least a month.
''I think with a community transmission event like this is that it does wind the clock back another 28 days because that's the period New Zealand does need to have where there is no transmission in order to safely connect through to other safe zone countries,'' he said.
''The aviation sector is on the cusp of being able to separate passengers from safe countries from those who are travelling from countries with Covid. We expect that work to continue and the sector be ready this month.''
While there has been strong pressure from the aviation and travel sectors to get a Cook Islands bubble up and running, the Government had been non-committal about the timing with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying on Monday it was hoped to have it up and running before the end of the year.
Tighe-Umbers said the Covid spread and the raising of alert levels in New Zealand underscored that nobody could get complacent and why preventive measures were important here.
''It shows that how quickly something can come and change the settings. I'm still optimistic about New Zealand being in a position where we have no community transmission - that's still the case in the islands,'' he said.
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Work would still continue on the project, methodically looking at the numbers, the safety measures in place
''Certainly it's a setback and it's a timely reminder. But I don't think it rules out our ability to establish safe zones further down the track.''
The establishment of safe travel zones in this region, New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands, were critical to keeping some airlines aloft and flying to these countries,
particularly smaller carriers serving this market.
''International airlines are really just hanging on maintaining a presence in New Zealand.
The longer it gets pushed out down the road the harder it will be for some these airlines to maintain their presence when they're not allowed to operate flights between countries.''
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said the return of Covid to the community here gives his airline another hurdle to cross.
''I feel that we will work that out - it's our ability to walk and chew gum at the same time as a country - it's not just an Air NZ thing. It goes to show that this is going to take a little longer but we will get through.''
Tighe-Umbers said having two alert levels - level three for Auckland and level two for the rest of the country - means the logistics of handling passengers was more complicated.
However, airlines and airports now had experience in implementing measures.
He urged travellers to be patient and where possible deal with airlines online.
The council issued the following guide.
What travellers can expect from noon today:
• Ex Auckland -
• Scheduled flights are continuing to operate under Alert Level 3
• Non-Auckland residents can travel to the airport to catch flights out of Auckland but will need to present a valid ticket or itinerary to travel to enter the Auckland Domestic Terminal
• Only Auckland residents who are essential workers can travel to the airport
• Passengers should expect to be required to wear masks on domestic flights. (Air NZ makes this mandatory, Jetstar strongly recommends them). Airlines will provide these or people are free to bring their own. For more detail, travellers should check their airline websites.
Rest of Country
• Scheduled flights are continuing to operate under alert level 2
• Domestic air travel continues for destinations outside of Auckland for all purposes
• Only essential workers needing to travel for work, or Aucklanders returning home, can fly to Auckland
• Passengers should expect to be required to wear masks on domestic flights, airlines will provide these or people are free to bring their own. For more detail, travellers should check their airline websites
• Social distancing is required at airports and separation measures will be in place. Keep your distance from people you don't know well, maintain good hygiene and track your journey
• Social distancing on domestic flights will be in place initially where passenger loads allow, and NZAC believes measures will be in place across the domestic network as soon as possible.
• People with confirmed tickets on international flights departing Auckland can travel to Auckland airport under alert level 3
• People can catch domestic flights to Auckland in order to transit to an international flight departing Auckland under alert level 3
• The international terminal at Auckland Airport will be open only to passengers with a valid ticket or itinerary to travel
• For the rest of New Zealand under alert level 2, people can travel to airports to catch international flights
• There are no changes to requirements for masks and social distancing on international flights.