A Whakatāne mum anxious her Otago-based daughter would not get home before the Covid-19 lockdown has praised Air New Zealand and a woman she has never met.
Sarah van der Boom wrote to the Otago University vice-chancellor last week after reading about the virus alert levels.
"I realised that by the time they closed universities there would already be community outbreak and travel restrictions," van der Boom said. "I couldn't see how we were going to get our kids home safe."
In her message to the vice-chancellor, van der Boom asked the university to reconsider its approach and suspend studies until all online services were operational. This, she said, would have allowed students the opportunity to travel home.
"Like many other parents, I want my child home NOW," van der Boom wrote.
On Tuesday morning, and before the beginning of the lockdown, Romy van der Boom flew into Rotorua Airport - much to the relief of her mother.
"I realised there were additional flights while I was trying to book Romy a ticket home. As well as myself, Romy, her flatmate and her flatmate's boyfriend were all online trying to secure a ticket.
"By the time we had gone through the online process for a seat, the flight had booked out. But additional flights were appearing every few minutes. We kept going until we got one.
"Air New Zealand did, and continue to do, an incredible job - I can't even imagine the logistics to get the additional flights happening."
Glimmer of hope for Rotorua aged-care workers trapped in Picton
Bay stores inundated with lockdown shoppers
Van der Boom said as well as getting her daughter home, the national carrier had also credited the costs of two other flights they had booked for Romy.
"She was initially booked to come home on April 10, then we rebooked for this Thursday, which would not have got her home before the lockdown. Air New Zealand have credited us for both those flights.
"I can't thank Air New Zealand enough."
Adding to her story, was the mum of one of her daughter's Otago friends who got up at 2am on Tuesday morning to drive Romy to Invercargill for her 4am check-in and 6am flight.
"She then drove back to Dunedin to be at work by 8am. We don't even know this lady but what a beautiful act of kindness, it was so friggin' awesome."
Romy said it was awesome to get home.
"I've got the rest of the week to get sorted online then it's back to study next week."
Air New Zealand said it had increased capacity on domestic services today and tomorrow to allow New Zealanders wanting to return home to do so prior to the country moving to alert level four.
A spokeswoman said the increase included a mix of additional services and swapping smaller aircraft for larger aircraft.
"We want to make sure our phone lines and social media channels are best able to assist customers urgently needing to travel, so we are asking people who want to only contact us if they are travelling within the next 48 hours," she said.
"If customers have a booked ticket that they do not intend to use, we would encourage them to cancel this online to free up capacity for those wishing to travel.
"We are also working through what domestic and international flight schedules will look like when the country is at alert level four and will provide an update as soon as we are able to."