Domestic carriers expect that vaccine requirements are likely to be the norm, after the national carrier announced new requirements for passengers travelling over Christmas.
This morning Air New Zealand announced that from mid-December, all customers will be asked to present proof of either full vaccination or a negative Covid test before taking domestic flights.
The airline said this would be a "seamless experience" with passenger vaccine status being verified using either the Government's My Vaccine Pass or the Air New Zealand app.
Although it is the first, other airlines say that Air New Zealand's new requirements are "likely to be moot" when the Covid Vaccination Certificate (CVC) framework is in place.
Air Chathams is one of the key regional carriers providing links between mainland New Zealand and some of the more remote, regional locations.
The airline's chief operating officer Duane Emeny says other domestic carriers - including Air Chathams - are likely to do the same, given the importance of the CVC framework to managing domestic travel safely.
"We've been involved in the consultation around the use of CVC domestically and how that would be rolled out over the framework from the end of this month," he said.
As details of the traffic light system are finalised, the importance of being able to prove vaccination status in the event of "red" regional travel restrictions will be vital to keeping the country moving.
"For us it's about being able to continue to operate and also continue to receive important support from the government," said Emeny.
Part of this will also be the requirement for staff to be vaccinated under that framework.
Emeny says that Air Chathams has been following the argument for domestic vaccine requirements closely.
"It's important to point out that it is not a 'ban' on unvaccinated travellers," he says, regarding Air New Zealand's new requirements.
The option for non-vaccinated travellers to travel following a negative Covid 19 tests provides a way for airlines to keep connectivity to more remote parts of the network.
As a key link from the Chatham Islands to the rest of New Zealand, he says that there is a duty to maintain connectivity, but also to do so safely.
"It's important to stress just how different that community is to the rest of New Zealand," says Emeny. "Medical facilities on the island are very limited, but for the most part anything serious requires medical evac."
"The feeling on the island is very much a heightened anxiety about Covid getting to the islands."
With six weeks until Christmas and even less time before Air New Zealand launches their new conditions of domestic travel, the timing is tight.
However, it is a decision that all carriers will have to face as New Zealand reaches 90 per cent vaccination and the traffic light system comes into place.
"In the coming days individual policy as a business will become a bit of a moot point because the requirements of the government are going to mean that our people and customers will need to be vaccinated or have a negative test going forward."
The alternative: Covid test
Air New Zealand was clear that the new vaccine requirements are not a mandate, but it would save them from having to produce a pre-departure Covid19 test.
From December 14 unvaccinated passengers on domestic flights will have to arrange for a PCR test up to 72 before departure, as they have to for international flights.
"We don't want to leave anyone behind, which is why we're giving customers the choice," said chief executive Greg Foran.
Pre-departure or 'fit to fly' tests from travel clinics or medical centres can cost upwards of $140. Although it is not clear if results for a free PCR test for symptoms or prescribed by a health official would be valid for travel under Air New Zealand's new policy.
"The operational details, such as whether travellers will be charged for pre-departure testing for domestic flights, are still being worked through," said a Ministry spokesperson.
Current advice on pre-departure testing is that: "you are responsible for the costs of your own tests."
Yesterday, Australian carrier Jetstar announced additional domestic services in New Zealand and flights across the Ditch with a seat sale.
While all passengers on Jetstar international flights over 12 must provide proof of vaccination, there are no plans to introduce requirements on domestic routes in New Zealand.
"We will continue to follow the latest government advice, including complying with any vaccination and testing requirements," said a spokesperson for the airline.
Jetstar is not currently flying services from its crew base in Auckland while the region remains under Alert Level 3.