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Air New Zealand has unveiled more than 180,000 cheap fares to mark the end of the requirement for physical distancing on planes.
Jacinda Ardern said physical distancing requirements on planes and public transport will be eased. From today, airlines, buses and train operators do not need to maintain any seating restrictions, but mask use will continue to be compulsory.
Chief executive Greg Foran said today's announcement allowed the airline to make more seats available at cheaper prices.
"We're thrilled to be able to offer 160,000 of these fares for under $50, with 9000 of these available during the upcoming school holidays," he said.
"This is our way of saying thanks to our customers for their support over the past few months.
"While our borders are closed, we know Kiwis are keen to get out and explore or visit friends and family, so we want to make travel as easy as possible – and this is also great news for local tourism.''
The airline is also removing change fees for domestic flights booked for travel up until March 2021.
Jetstar announces return
Jetstar is resuming domestic flights in New Zealand from September 17, with the removal of physical distancing requirements on flights from today.
After a four-week hiatus, the airline will resume up to 75 flights on six domestic routes, which amounts to approximately 60 per cent of its pre-Covid-19 schedule.
Masks will be mandatory on all services and sanitising wipes will be available at the gate and on board.
Jetstar Group CEO Gareth Evans thanked customers for their patience.
"We're really pleased to get our planes and our people back in the sky, right in time for school holidays so we can help reconnect family and friends across the country."
Resort pleased as more allowed on flights
Queenstown Lakes District deputy mayor Calum Macleod has welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement that social distancing requirements on public transport will be relaxed today saying it was "really good news".
"Even a journey of 1000 miles begins with a step and we're just taking a series of small steps and that's another small step in the right direction.
"It's a well-measured announcement by the Prime Minister talking about taking a step this week, another step next week potentially.
"It's all with the right goal of keeping us safe, but it is small steps, which are much appreciated."
Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult thanked the Prime Minister and Government for listening to calls to ease the restriction.
“Finding a balance between protecting public health and helping economic recovery is very difficult,” Mr Boult said.
“The government has taken a thoroughly responsible attitude in managing Covid-19 and I’m very thankful for the decision that was announced today. It will give our region a significant boost at a time when we appreciate all the help we can get.”
It cleared the way for airlines to be able to fill their planes. For travellers this will mean more available seats, more flights and affordable fares to choose from, said co-chair Justin Tighe-Umbers.
''With school holidays coming up so many more Kiwis will now be able to get out around the country, visit loved ones or head on holiday.''
It was a pragmatic decision from the Ministry of Health which recognised that mandatory masks for everyone on board and existing airline measures will keep travellers safe.
''Having seating restrictions removed from Alert Level 2 means that the domestic network can continue to operate without losing up to three quarters of normal capacity which is impossible for airlines to keep up,'' he said.
The Ministry of Health said with the use of face coverings its updated advice is physical distancing is not required on domestic flights or public transport such as trains, buses and ferries.
"Reports are that passengers on public transport are taking the use of face coverings seriously and regularly scanning QR codes on all forms of transport. This along with electronic ticketing on airlines means we can contract trace rapidly if required.
" The advisory by Ministry of Health and Ministry of Transport for recommended seating configurations on public transport that promoted physical distancing have now been revoked, effective immediately.
"Airlines and those transport operators requiring pre-bookings have been advised of these changes and can now accept higher volumes of bookings."
If you are travelling, to work, school or on holiday, please remember to practise the core hygiene measures – disinfect hands, cough into your elbow and, most importantly, if you are unwell, please stay home.
- Tracey Roxburgh and NZ Herald