Three private air flights have landed in New Zealand from China in the past 10 days, Customs has confirmed.

It comes amid a worsening global outbreak of the deadly coronavirus which has killed more than 400 people and infected thousands more, with most of the victims in China.

And while private flights have touched down in New Zealand from the Chinese mainland, those onboard are subject to the same travel restrictions to passengers on commercial flights, Customs says.

Customs says those on board private flights to New Zealand from the Chinese mainland are subject to the same travel restrictions as passengers on commercial flights. Photo / NZ Herald
Customs says those on board private flights to New Zealand from the Chinese mainland are subject to the same travel restrictions as passengers on commercial flights. Photo / NZ Herald

"There have been three private air arrivals from China (Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Shenzen) in the past 10 days that we are aware of," a New Zealand Customs spokesman told the Herald today.


"Private aircraft operators have been notified of the new travel measures that came into effect from [Monday]. Passengers from private flights are being processed in the same manner and subject to the same entry criteria as those arriving from commercial craft, and we work closely with airport companies to ensure passenger processes are being followed.

Customs would not provide any further information on the private flights or say who was on board them, citing privacy.

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Private and corporate flights from China to New Zealand have dwindled to almost nothing over Chinese New Year, even before the travel ban was enforced.

Air Center One chief executive Rob Leach said things had gone "very quiet" with no flights from China for close to two weeks, apart from one flight which had cancelled while on stopover in Australia and returned to China.

Leach's company provides services for hundreds of private aircraft each year and would normally deal with seven to eight private or corporate flights during the Chinese New Year period..

Those travelling on the flights are normally high-net-worth travellers, either here for business or tourism.

Their jets head to a private terminal at Auckland Airport where Air Center One's duties include notifying Customs and the Ministry for Primary Industries of who is on the flight, ground handling on arrival, refuelling and catering.


Customs and MPI carry out their usual processes such as X-raying baggage at the private terminal.

However Customs today has asked that all private planes from China be sent to the main international terminal for health screening, Leach said.

"I think they don't have enough resources to assess private flights."

His company had received no requests from private aircraft coming from China since the travel ban came into effect on Monday.

Leach believed the travel ban was over the top as his clientele would not be spending time in areas like the Wuhan meat market where the virus was believed to have originated.

"The [infection] threat level of somebody coming in on these aircraft is very low."


There has been speculation online that Chinese people who could afford it were fleeing the country to escape the coronavirus - sparked by the arrival of two private jets in the last 10 days, one from Hangzhou and one from Beijing.

The latter landed just before midnight on February 2, shortly before the China-New Zealand travel ban came into effect.

But Leach said there was "nothing sinister" about such flights - which were fairly frequent.

In 2014 concerns about Ebola saw interest in private flights soar, as people sought to avoid other passengers who could carry the disease.