Just hours after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland would drop to alert level 2 next week, every available seat on Air NZ's Queenstown-bound flights was booked out for the next week.
Ardern yesterday announced a four-day extension to the current level 3 lockdown in Auckland, with the rest of the county to remain at alert level 2.
From midnight Sunday, Tāmaki Makaurau will move to alert level 2 and Aucklanders will be able to travel domestically again without an exemption.
And Aucklanders aren't waiting to leave the city: four hours after Ardern's announcement there were no available seats on Air New Zealand's Queenstown-bound flights until September 5.
Air New Zealand's website shows flights to Queenstown are fully booked between Monday and Thursday, and Saturday. There is one flight available on Friday next week.
An Aucklander, who didn't want to be named, told the Herald he'd kept an eye on the airline's flights after the latest level 3 lockdown meant he and his family couldn't fly to Queenstown this weekend.
"Within hours of this afternoon's announcement, all of the flights were gone," he said.
"Prices had gone up and there was some demand, but I thought it was interesting."
With Jetstar grounding all of its domestic services until August 26, it left few options for domestic travel, he said.
"Part of it will be built-up demand for people wanting to go on holiday - you wouldn't want to think people are fleeing the city."
Air New Zealand has operated a reduced domestic schedule to and from Auckland for the past week and recently made mask wearing compulsory on all flights out of Auckland.
The airline's chief executive Greg Foran on Tuesday said capacity restrictions had been manually imposed on domestic services over the coming weeks, so that Air New Zealand could follow physical distancing rules onboard.
"While we understand the Government's desire that public transport operates with physical distancing for alert level 2, physical distancing means we can only sell just under 50 per cent of seats on a turboprop aircraft and just 65 per cent on an A320.
"With these restrictions in place, some services are immediately at capacity. Our teams are working hard to add capacity where they can through upgauging aircraft or adding services."
In order to just cover its operating costs, the national carrier wouldn't be able to offer its lowest lead in fares until physical distancing rules were relaxed, Foran said.
"We won't be able to offer enough seats, and we certainly can't operate commercially under these settings," he said.
"It's really tough for airlines to operate with physical distancing. While Covid-19 is part of our landscape, we need to find safe ways of operating our business."
Foran believed that if masks were required on board for all customers, if staff used PPE and if those onboard all followed good hand hygiene, the airline could safely operate without physical distancing.
Amid the fear of Covid-19 spreading from aircrew to passengers, Foran last week outlined the company's updated safety measures.
All airline crew will wear masks and gloves when interacting with passengers and will don full PPE when dealing with unwell passengers.
Domestic crew and those operating the managed isolation flights are not required to be routinely tested as they are wearing appropriate PPE (gloves and masks) on board and in the terminal, an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said.
''We are following the Ministry of Health guidance in full, have assessed the risks according to international best practice and have addressed these appropriately," she said.
"Our crew are wearing gloves to prevent transmission through touch and masks to prevent transmission via droplets."