Singapore Airlines' first passenger flight returning to New Zealand after lockdown is taking a step towards normality - but for the airline's crew, it is anything but.

With their usual hotel accommodation, the Rydges on Federal St, being used for mandatory isolation of returning travellers, the crew was using Ramada Suites by Wyndham in Manukau during the Covid-19 period.

Upon arrival, the crew was shepherded on to a chartered bus and taken straight to their hotel.

After checking in, crew are required to remain isolated in their rooms for the duration of their layover, which is between 16 hours and 34 hours depending on the flight they are operating.

A Singapore Airlines flight attendant arriving in Auckland just before the lockdown. Photo / Lincoln Tan
A Singapore Airlines flight attendant arriving in Auckland just before the lockdown. Photo / Lincoln Tan

Unlike returning travellers on managed isolation, the flight crew members are not allowed to step outside for exercise, or even for fresh air.

An Auckland woman who has been unable to see her SQ flight attendant friend who arrived on flight SQ285 in Auckland yesterday afternoon, said the crew are being "kept like prisoners".

The woman had planned to meet her Singapore Airlines crew friend for dinner, but was told by her flight attendant friend that she would be "penalised" if she stepped out of her room.

Singapore Airlines has resumed passenger flights to New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Singapore Airlines has resumed passenger flights to New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

"Maybe it's reasonable that they can't leave the hotel because of the high Covid-19 case numbers in Singapore, but to ban them from all human contact even with their fellow crew members is just inhumane," she said.

"They can't get any outdoor exercise, fresh air or even use the hotel gym. They are being kept like prisoners."

From today, people in managed self-isolation and quarantine won't be able to apply for exemptions to attend funerals and tangi.

As of yesterday, Singapore has 38,514 Covid-19 cases, mainly involving migrant workers who live in congested dormitories.

Ramada Suites' manager Diliara Reed would not comment but referred the Herald to Singapore Airlines.

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Karl Schubert, spokesman for Singapore Airlines said the airline was required to adhere to directives from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) when operating flights to and from Singapore.

"The health and safety of our crew and customers is our highest priority," he said.

Schubert said the directives included a requirement that crew remained within their hotel room for the entire layover and that meals is served by room service delivered directly to the crew's room.

It also required the provision for a chartered bus service to transport the crew to and from the hotel, and that the crew are accommodated in a hotel that was not being used to quarantine returning travellers.

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"These directives are in place to allow crew to operate to different countries across our global network without the need to undertake the mandatory 14-day stay at home notice upon return to Singapore, while also ensuring our operations can be carried out in a Covid-safe manner," Schubert said.

Schubert noted that the Ministry of Health's advisory to airline crew here also required "managed transport and accommodation" to prevent aircrew "from being able to mix with the local population".


A ministry spokesman told the Herald accommodation for airline staff was the responsibility of the airline.

But he said aircrew are required to practice good hygiene and physical distancing during their stay - including self-isolating in their hotel and using room service.

They are not allowed to use the hotel pools and gyms, the spokesman said, or mix with other aircrew or hotel guests.

Auckland Airport's general manager for aeronautical commercial Scott Tasker told One News yesterday that the resumption of Singapore Airline's passenger flight was a positive step.

The border, however, remains closed to tourists and anyone entering New Zealand must be a New Zealand resident or citizen and still require a 14-day managed isolation.