Airline refunds

With the extra ordinary demand on refund processing most airlines have extensive delays in processing and of course paying out refunds. Some airlines will take several months. We are monitoring these on your behalf. We have all experienced considerable frustration around the constant changes that airlines and tour operators have been making to their cancellation polices – some airlines and tour operators have reviewed their rules up to half a dozen times in the last couple of months. Regrettably we’re still seeing changes to these rules and we advise affected clients on a case by case basis.  Please know that your team at ATPI has your back when we are applying for refunds/credits, leading to many interesting negotiations in recent weeks on behalf of our clients.     

Airline credits

Qantas has to be applauded for allowing airfares held in credit to be used for multiple trips. Available from June onward, an example is that if you  have a $3000 airfare credit from a trip to Europe with Qantas, then you can split this and drop feed into a few smaller trips across the Tasman or to Fiji instead. They have also extended the period that you can do this.

If holding a credit with another airline we strongly recommend that you rebook these as soon as possible for future travel dates to avoid any airfare increases (the prospect of less flights infers higher airfares) and we want you to avoid forking out more money to an airline.

Flying and physical distancing

If flying then we recommend you embark on the booking process not expecting any physical distancing. You and your travelling employees will have to evaluate the risk profile of flying and being in close proximity to others. Your personal risk tolerance will tell you whether flying is for you right now. Aside from the fact that airlines in general are not great at getting assigned seating right at the best of times, it simply isn’t practical for an airline to run their aircraft half empty. For any airline to break even on a half full flight hypothetically would require everyone to be on the very highest airfares. Air NZ has outlined its plans to sell domestic flights to 50% - 65% of occupancy providing vacant seats alongside. This neither solves the distance of the person behind you or in front of you nor does it solve the Kiwi sheep mentality of rushing to get on or off the plane; in the near term the airline will endeavour to try to help with spare seats. This does not include Air NZ’s international flights. So irrespective of where you are going to fly and with what airline, we’re saying to assess risk and to manage expectations down. If you are anxious about this then delay your flying for the moment.  

For those clients for whom physical distance is important or need to fly on routes not currently being served then ask our Team about rental cars, chauffeur driven cars or vans (for a group of you)  or the range of charter aircraft and helicopter operators that we work with.

Air New Zealand’s domestic network will start to improve. Each week from Level 2 start -up on 14 May, slightly more flights will be added to the frequency on each city pair. Right now, there are two or three flights to each city on the main trunk (AKL/WLG/CHC) and these increase as demand returns. More provincial centres are being added back into the network, but there are not a lot of flights on a daily basis. The airline will not be offering any of their lower fare categories; no inflight catering offered.

Air New Zealand is currently operating longhaul flights to Hong Kong and Los Angeles plus a handful of flights to Australia and the South Pacific each week. They do have quite a number of flights to Shanghai and other US destinations, but these are operating as ad-hoc cargo only aircraft

Air New Zealand along with most other airlines has reduced schedules significantly. Therefore, you do need to book well in advance. Qantas also operates some trans-Tasman routes.

We applaud Emirates which has extended the use of airline tickets held in credit for up to two years. most airlines are 'within 12 months'.

Jetstar will not commence flying domestic New Zealand and Tasman sectors until July.

Lufthansa Group airlines (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines etc) are re-commencing flights however they require all passengers to wear a face mask for the duration of the flight. We expect to see this policy spread to other airlines, but we won’t enter the debate about the usefulness of masks for ‘well- wearers’!  United, Delta, Southwest and Alaskan Airlines are among the major US airlines mandating mask wearing.

Emirates is unlikely to return to New Zealand until July at the earliest and Qatar Airways has delayed their return until October. Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have flagged earlier returns but amongst considerations for them is lifting of the ban on non-NZ citizens arriving here.  

Aircraft spotters have been enjoying the show over the last month as airlines which normally don’t visit our shores flew across our skies; airlines we also taking great leaps in the interests of repatriation flights. Lufthansa flew over a dozen A380 and 747 flights between Christchurch and Auckland through to Frankfurt – this attracted great media attention in Germany (pictured at Auckland Airport); Swiss and Austrian Airlines also had aircraft in Auckland repatriating their nationals. Air New Zealand flew non-stop charters Delhi to Christchurch and Auckland in a two-way journey to repatriate Indian citizens and New Zealanders and the German Government chartered Air NZ jets to fly German travellers stuck in NZ and Canada back to Germany.  Air Canada has been flying non-stop between Auckland and Toronto, Virgin Australia flew from Auckland to Paris (via Hong Kong)  repatriating French nationals, LATAM and Aerolineas Argentinas  have been shuttling through  Auckland almost daily as they fly onward to Shanghai and Singapore from South America (passenger planes used for cargo); great leaps have been taken by Virgin Australia, which on returning from Paris flew non-stop to Brisbane in a marathon history making 19 hours 45 minutes. Air Tahiti Nui has also been breaking records with flights Tahiti non-stop to Paris with Air NZ’s Delhi to Auckland being about 16hrs 30 mins. New Zealand has hundreds of travellers stuck in South Africa – so we’re waiting, waiting, waiting for MFAT to do something here.