Emergency flights for Kiwis stranded in New South Wales have sold out.
Those hoping to snap up a spot on a flight home on special Air New Zealand flights put on over the next two weeks will have to wait for more to appear after all seats were bought within 15 minutes of being made available at10am.
It comes after the announcement that only 40 to 60 seats would be up for grabs on each flight on a first-in, first-served basis.
The flights have been put on for Kiwis stranded in the Australian state because of the latest Covid-19 outbreak there.
Call centre for Kiwis with urgent need to get home
A call centre has been set up for Kiwis with an “urgent or exceptional need” to return to New Zealand from NSW.
The Unite Against Covid-19 Facebook page said anyone who fits in that category can call through to explain their situation for further guidance.
The phone line will run from 10am to 10pm (NZT), from Monday to Friday, on (04) 439-8235. People can also send an email via NSW2NZ@mfat.govt.nz.
Anyone wanting to be granted a trip home on compassionate or urgent grounds needs to meet eligibility requirements, such as there being a serious health or safety risk that means they need to return to New Zealand as soon as possible.
Leanne Geraghty, of Air New Zealand, said: “We would love to be able to bring more Kiwis home to their families, but we’re limited by the availability of [managed isolation and quarantine] spots.
“Only between 40 to 60 seats per flight will be available to be booked by customers as these are directly linked to MIQ spots.”
Those trying to get home on any of these flights do not have to search for an MIQ spot separately, as a result, as each seat will be linked to an available room in a managed isolation facility.
About 20 per cent of all MIQ spots are being set aside for those wanting to get home urgently on compassionate grounds. Those are being managed by government officials, the airline said.
The first emergency flights from NSW are scheduled to touch down tomorrow at 2.25pm in Auckland and 11.55pm in Christchurch, respectively.
The next flights throughout the week are scheduled to arrive in Auckland, while one will land in Christchurch on July 23.
'No hope of a seat!' – Frustration as seats quickly disappear
“As we’re experiencing a very high volume of calls and messages, we recommend customers visit our Travel Alerts page before getting in touch. We will continue to update this page as more information becomes available,” Geraghty said.
Herald readers have reported their frustration at not being able to buy a seat – despite being on the website from the start of the ticket sales.
Liz van Dyk said: “At 8am Australian time, when we were advised to get online, there were no flights available for the next two week period.
“I don’t know how anyone managed to book these flights or whether the roll-out is on a day-by-day basis?”
Another woman said: “Tried to book this morning at 10am on the dot, Sydney to Auckland. The modify your booking section wouldn’t even operate.
“Just says [to] ring Air NZ – well, have been hanging on for 50 minutes now. No hope of a seat!”
All mercy flights will effectively be categorised as red flights – with people being required to wear masks and social distancing observed throughout.
The flight crew will also not be allowed to work on subsequent flights to the Cook Islands or domestic trips around New Zealand.
“We appreciate our customers’ understanding and patience as our teams work to ensure they are kept up to date.”
Just after 10.30am, it appeared all the flights from Sydney to Auckland or Christchurch over the next two weeks had been snapped up; with no seats available until Monday, July 26, for just over $300 for a one-way economy ticket.
The business fares, one-way, start from $1111 and are not available any more until July 26.
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