The national carrier has come up with a high tech solution to deliver unaccompanied children and peace of mind around Aotearoa this Christmas.
Even in a year of disrupted air travel the national carrier is getting ready for a reassuringly busy peak travel season. The airline has put on an additional 16000 seats in December for Kiwis travelling home or to see family. However, since the start of the school holidays the airline says as part of the travel surge they are seeing an "unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors" flying without adults.
Air New Zealand expects around 10000 children under 16 to be travelling on their planes without a guardian this Christmas. To cope with the influx while parents might have additional concerns about air travel this year, Air New Zealand has put additional staff on duty at Auckland Airport from today until mid-February.
Chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty says the programme should have no problem coping with the increased demand.
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"While we have always had staff looking after unaccompanied minors on their journey, given the huge number of unaccompanied minors we have travelling with us between December and February every year, we think it's important to have a group of staff solely focused on unaccompanied minors."
Part of the solution involves use the airline's trademarked wearable tracking technology – the Airband.
"The wristband which is embedded with a chip scanned at key stages of the journey to trigger text notifications giving parents and guardians the opportunity to follow the steps in their young ones' trip," says Geraghty.
The Airbands were first trialled in 2015. Since then the bands have become mandatory for children under 11, travelling on the network without a guardian or older sibling.
The airline warns guardians booking travel for unaccompanied children, that those under 12 must be declared. There are also additional service fees, which doubles from $15 per child one way to $30 when booked at the airport, or from $40 to $80 for international services.
This is the first revamp to Air New Zealand's unaccompanied minors programme since the service was resumed in July, after social distancing requirements were eased.
The scheme will be rolled out for more domestic airports in time for the April school holidays next year.