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NZ’s airports adapting to COVID-19

“Aviation is facing its most challenging time. Airports have responded at speed, and are now working towards ensuring the national network remains intact and fit-for-purpose, and will be ready to rebound when restrictions are lifted,” says Kevin Ward, the chief executive of New Zealand’s association for airports (NZ Airports).

Aviation operations are changing from mainly moving people home to begin their isolation or to depart NZ, to catering for reduced domestic flight schedules for essential services personnel and freight, alongside hospital patient transfer flights.

At the same time, airports are working closely with the Government, local district health boards, border agencies and Police to proactively manage the health risk associated with COVID-19.

“Depending on where people are, the local airport will now be operating under a range of different restrictions. If you are an essential traveller, it is important you check online what the situation is with the airport before you arrive there. Knowing what to expect means you can comply with security, safety and health requirements.”

Access to many terminal buildings is restricted and non-essential staff are working from home. Non-essential facilities such as airport cafes and rental car agencies have closed. Construction work at airports has gone on hold, except where required for essential maintenance and safety.

“Health and safety is the top priority in aviation, just as it always has been.”

Key airport actions include

  • Restricting terminal access to essential travellers only
  • Removing some seating to promote physical distancing
  • Intensified cleaning regimes throughout the terminal and ground transport equipment.
  • Installing additional hand sanitiser stations inside terminals and giving regular public messages

“These are unique times so airports are constantly talking with our regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, about how they operate while managing the risk of some key employees being potentially unavailable due to illness or isolation requirements.”

“Airports differ widely in their scale and capabilities, with different issues at each level in the sector. We are working out together what being an essential service means in these times, depending on the airport size, status and location,” says Mr Ward.

Airports are working well together, and so is the entire aviation sector, he says. “Airports operate as hubs in a connected air transport system. We all need to co-ordinate for that to work. This has to be a team effort and there a strong co-operative spirit around the sector, including the airlines and key suppliers such as aviation fuel.”

“We are all trying to support our aviation partners and especially their employees who are feeling the stress at the coalface.”

“We are currently looking at what measures will be needed to keep New Zealand’s core airport infrastructure, capability and skills. The Government has invited the airport sector to let them know if special support is required,” Mr Ward concludes.

For further information please contact:

Kevin Ward, Chief Executive, NZ Airports
021 384 524