Passengers flying Air New Zealand will start the New Year with one less thing to look forward to because the Kiwi flag carrier is pulling all food and drink from its flights so that passengers have no excuse to remove their face masks.
The reduced (non-existent) in-flight service will come into effect on 1st January 2022 on all of Air New Zealand’s domestic flights.
Most of Air New Zealand’s domestic flights are thankfully only very short hops and even the longest domestic service between Auckland and Invercargill usually takes less than two hours.
Air New Zealand’s chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty told Traveller magazine the decision to suspend inflight service was specifically about making sure passengers had no reason to remove or lower their face masks inflight.
“Masks are one of the key ways to limit transmission, so making this change will enable our customers’ masks to be kept on throughout the flight and ensure they are as safe as possible while onboard an Air New Zealand aircraft,” Geraghty explained.
A small snack will be handed out by flight attendants to passengers only as they leave the aircraft at their destination.
After spending most of the pandemic mostly virus-free, New Zealand tentatively sought to reopen and learn to live with the virus after the Delta variant proved so transmissible that the country’s once successful measures to wipe the virus out were defeated.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern even laid out a path to reopening New Zealand’s international borders but those plans have been left in tatters by the emergence of the Omicron variant. While New Zealand excepts COVID-19 is here to stay, the country is pursuing a ‘Zero Omicron’ strategy.
The country has so far been able to stop Omicron at the borders but New Zealanders were shocked to find out that a British DJ broke the conditions of his quarantine and went to a nightclub while infected with Omicron. So far, contact tracers haven’t been able to find anyone in the community infected with the highly-transmissible variant.
Geraghty, however, says Air New Zealand doesn’t think Omicron can be stopped for long.
“It’s anticipated that we will soon see the Omicron variant within the New Zealand community, so we are making this change now to further safeguard our customers and crew,” she told Traveller.
An Air New Zealand crew member returning from an international trip has already tested positive for Omicron but the Ministry of Health announced on Friday that all close contacts had tested negative for the virus. So far, New Zealand has detected 88 cases of the Omicron variant at the border.
The measures will be “reviewed on a regular basis and updated accordingly,” Geraghty continued. Several other airlines implemented similar bans on food and drink service at the start of the pandemic but these restrictions have largely been lifted.
From Monday, however, France will ban passengers on long-distance public transport from eating or drinking in vehicles like trains and busses so that there is no excuse to go bare-faced.
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.