Call to drop distancing on planes

Jim Boult
Jim Boult
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult is calling for social distancing on aircraft to be scrapped to help alleviate the resort’s "economically desperate" situation.

The Cabinet is set to review restrictions on commercial flights when it considers changes to alert levels on Monday.

Yesterday, Mr Boult labelled the existing restrictions "excessive" and called on the Government to remove distancing regulations from commercial aircraft.

At present, Air New Zealand can sell only 50% of its seats on a turboprop aircraft, the likes of which service the resort from Christchurch, and 65% on A320s, which are put on longer routes, including from Auckland.

Additionally, all passengers must wear masks.

"Given the requirement for masks, I think the social distancing rules on aircraft are excessive," Mr Boult said.

"We are aware of current unsatisfied demand by would-be visitors to the district, which is frustrating given the position local businesses find themselves in.

"We’re in an economically desperate situation and the district needs the additional travellers that a relaxing of distancing requirements would bring."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday the existing settings for air travel were based on advice from the Ministry of Health that "sitting in close quarters on a plane can spread the virus".

"No-one wants to see Covid take off in Queenstown as a result of it spreading on an inbound flight, but the Government is also mindful of the impact on tourism the restrictions are having, which is why Cabinet will take another look at them in advance of the school holidays."

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts said the Government should listen to the advice of epidemiologists such as Prof Michael Baker and Associate Prof Nick Wilson, both of whom had been reported as saying mask use was sufficient for safe flying.

He also called on the Government to relax restrictions so families could make travel plans for the school holidays, which start in a fortnight.

Air New Zealand group commercial and offshore regions general manager Michael Williams said the airline was in "continued talks" with the Government about removing the physical distancing requirement.

It believed if masks were required for all passengers and staff used personal protective equipment, "we can operate safely without physical distancing".

Mr Williams said if the existing rules remained in place for the school holidays it would affect about 50,000 New Zealanders.

The Ministry of Health was unable to respond to inquiries by deadline.



Why not visit Queenstown......where your buck is valued higher than your health.

Not in favour of having my health put in jeopardy for money.

Another right-winger thinks we should ignore health advice so that him and his buddies can make more money in the short term. What could go wrong?

This guy represents everything that is wrong with Queenstown.
Tourism is responsible for much of the spread of the virus around the world, and instead of paying for the damage it caused, the tourism industry is just looking for more welfare. Now they want to risk people's lives to save their unsustainable and environmentally disastrous industry.



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter