The New Zealand government is will no longer fund a dedicated quarantine facility for pilots and cabin crew from the country’s flag carrier airline at a five star downtown Auckland hotel. Taxpayers are believed to have spent as much as $500,000 a month to completely book out all 79 rooms at the historic Grand Windsor hotel located a stone’s throw from Princes Wharf.
Air New Zealand’s pilots and cabin crew must quarantine in an approved facility when they return from a trip to the United States and until the results of a COVID-19 test are returned as negative.
The Grand Windsor was snapped up by Air New Zealand after hotels closer to Auckland airport ran out of space. The arrangement has been in place for several months after the government decided it was too risky to let aircrew self-isolate at home while waiting for their test results.
The total cost to the government to pay for rooms and catering at the Grand Windsor is believed to be nearing $2 million according to local news site Stuff. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is continuing to cover the quarantine bill being racked up by Air New Zealand but this will soon come to an end.
The decision to stop funding a dedicated quarantine facility for aircrew returning from trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco could signal a change in policy that would allow aircrew to once against self-isolate at home.
This would be welcome news for some pilots who claim to have spent more than 100 days in quarantine during the course of the pandemic. Air New Zealand had asked for the government to pay for Peloton cycle machines for pilots to have in some of their rooms but this request was rejected.
The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association says it’s “ridiculous” that crew are now being required to isolate given the vaccination rates across California. In LA County, the number of residents aged over 16 to have received at least one jab has reached 65 per cent, while San Francisco has achieved a vaccination rate of 80 per cent for eligible residents (correct as of June 12, 2021).
Health officials have already recommended ending mandatory hotel quarantine for returning crew members from the U.S. but health minister Chris Hipkins said he would wait for further information before making a decision.
Neither Air New Zealand nor the government were willing to confirm how much hotel quarantine had so far cost taxpayers citing commercial sensitivity.
During a severe surge in COVID-19 cases in California last year, Air New Zealand took the decision to add a stopover in Hawaii so that crew didn’t have to get off the aircraft in either Los Angeles or San Francisco.
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Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.