Wellington Airport says it could take more international returnees, after MBIE announced a cut to the capital's quarantine capacity last week.
Wellington Airport has hit back at the Government's claim that it's not "set up to easily cater for red zone flights", saying it has never struggled to safely meet the capital's MIQ demand.
Last week, MBIE announced Wellington's Bay Plaza Hotel had halved its capacity and would cease operating as an MIQ facility altogether at the end of the year, bringing the capital's quarantine facilities from two down to one.
Meanwhile, more than 22,000 people missed out on MIQ spots yesterday when 3200 rooms were released and randomly allocated to people desperate to return to New Zealand.
Although Bay Plaza Hotel's ventilation system was also not considered to be up to Delta standard, MBIE also cited "operational constraints" as the reason for cutting down MIQ capacity in the capital.
Managed Isolation and Quarantine associate deputy secretary Andrew Milne said this included Wellington International Airport not being "set up to easily cater for red zone flights".
Red zone flights refer to any planes carrying passengers from outside of New Zealand, except for quarantine-free countries – such as Australia during the transtasman bubble.
But a Wellington Airport spokesperson said they had been handling red zone flights "safely and regularly" throughout the whole pandemic, and could even take more flights if asked to do so.
"From our perspective, there has been no difficulty in meeting current demand from MIQ," said spokeswoman Jenna Raeburn.
"On average we would receive around two flights per month, to service Wellington's small number of MIQ facilities.
"We have not been asked by MBIE to scale up this capacity but would be able to handle more flights if required."
Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Brigadier Rose King said MIQ has not had access to the commercial terminal at Wellington Airport for receiving red zone flights.
"However, we were able to use the RNZAF's Rongotai terminal on the other side of the airfield for transfers from Auckland.
"This is a smaller facility and can be disrupted by other private flights.
"MIQ staff have evolved a process for passengers disembarking from the planes and boarding the buses to the facilities that does not interfere with the RNZAF's operations of the terminal."
Raeburn said red zone flights were handled on the opposite side of the runway from the main terminal, which kept MIQ flights separate from domestic, and during the transtasman bubble, green zone flights.
She said red zone flights were domestic transfers from Auckland or Christchurch.
"We have not been asked to handle direct red zone international flights but would be more than happy to look at this."