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Dow Jones Newswires: Airlines to bypass New Zealand even as border reopens, Auckland airport says


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Airlines are unlikely to resume regular long-haul flights to New Zealand until the government gives a date for ending self-isolation requirements for travelers, Auckland International Airport Ltd. said.

New Zealand has announced a cautious plan for reopening its border — closed for nearly two years because of the pandemic — that will take about 10 months starting from the end of February. At least initially, arrivals will face a series of COVID-19 tests and a requirement to isolate from the community for 10 days. Currently, travelers to New Zealand have to enter military-run quarantine.

Auckland Airport AIA, -1.85%, the main international gateway for New Zealand, said Friday that some 10 airlines have told it that they need a clearer plan from New Zealand to resume long-haul flights.

“Without clear guidance around the trigger points or a date for self-isolation ending, they would not be able to attract meaningful traveler volumes needed to sustain long-haul flights to and from New Zealand,” the company said.

The airlines say that international passenger numbers can be expected at 5% to 10% of pre-pandemic levels with self-isolation requirements in place, Auckland Airport said.

“Airlines say their customers will not want to fly long-haul to New Zealand for the trip of a lifetime or on business, only to spend their first week sitting in a hotel,” it said.

A dozen airlines are presently operating international flights from New Zealand to 22 destinations, which is less than half of the pre-pandemic level.

New Zealand’s initial lockdown in March to May 2020, and its border closure, limited the spread of the coronavirus. The South Pacific country, with a population of about 5 million people, has recorded around 16,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and 53 deaths, according to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project.

However, the zero-COVID-19 approach proved to be untenable as the virus mutated and became more contagious. A monthslong lockdown in the country’s largest city, Auckland, last year was unable to stamp out the delta variant. The government has been preparing for a rapid rise in cases of the milder omicron variant in the coming weeks.

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