Auckland Airport switches focus to helping repatriation flights

06 April 2020

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt scheduled services, Auckland Airport is working hard to connect travellers to their destination.

Behind the scenes the airport’s aeronautical business team is supporting international airlines, including the likes of Lufthansa, who don’t normally fly to New Zealand, to manage flights repatriating thousands of stranded tourists.

General Manager Aeronautical Commercial Scott Tasker said while it’s a shift from the team’s core business of helping New Zealand’s tourism and export sectors by attracting airlines and opening new routes, the key principles stay the same.

“We’re ensuring everything runs as smoothly as possible for both airlines and passengers.

“What has really changed is the timeframes. There’s a lot that goes into preparing for the arrival of a new airline service and it can take between six and 12 months under normal circumstances.

“With Lufthansa, who is new to New Zealand, this includes everything from sorting IT connections, sharing airport operating procedures, ground-handling arrangements to finding crew accommodation and having a German-speaking member of our team on hand to help.

“Having all of New Zealand on a Level 4 lockdown has definitely added another layer to the complexity and challenge, but we were really happy to be able to play our part.”

A Lufthansa 747-400 ran the first repatriation flight of the COVID-19 outbreak on 28 March, carrying German nationals from Auckland to Frankfurt, via Tokyo.

Lufthansa are flying a further five Airbus A380 repatriations flights from Auckland to Frankfurt, via Bangkok, over the course of this week.

In total, Lufthansa Group Airlines will carry out 12 repatriation flights between 7 April and 11 April from Auckland Airport and Christchurch Airport to Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

“We are thrilled and honoured to fly people back home in these extraordinary times. Carrying out repatriation flights and flying half-way around the world is the responsibility of Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss being an indispensable part of their home country infrastructure,” says Alain Chisari, Vice President for all Lufthansa Group Airlines operating in Asia-Pacific.

“I would like to thank the German Embassy, the authorities in New Zealand as well as Auckland and Christchurch Airport for their support in making these repatriation flights possible.”

Chisari points out that the current crisis will not last forever.

“Together with the New Zealand people I am looking forward to the day when regular travel will return to their country and the rest of the world.”

All travellers are advised not to come to the airport unless they have a valid passport and a confirmed ticket to fly.