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DIRECT flights to Auckland from Invercargill are suspended while Auckland remains under Covid Alert Level 3.

Air New Zealand confirmed it would operate a reduced domestic schedule to and from Auckland this week.

The only airport in the South Island with direct flights would be to Christchurch with 13 weekly returns.

“The changes to our network relate to flights to and from Auckland. The remainder of the network is unchanged,” an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said.

Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said there were “no flights planned again until after the 26th”, but the Wellington and Christchurch flights would continue to run normally.

“While it is disappointing we are losing the Auckland flights for a couple of weeks, we certainly understand the response to Covid-19 is the most important thing at the moment. And obviously we are supporting that.”

The airport had again been set up for Alert Level 2 with social distancing guidance across the entire terminal, hand sanitising stations in place, reduced opportunity for incoming and outgoing passengers to mix, more cleaning happening and reminder messages on the PA.

“We also have contract tracking in place with QR codes at all entrances and exits. Passengers have been really understanding and seem to have taken the changes in their stride.

“We have also worked with our staff to reduce the chance of exposure by changing some work patterns and providing extra PPE.

“With the move to Level 2, I advise anyone travelling from Invercargill Airport to arrive at the airport early as check-in and security processes might be slower than usual.”

Last week, about 20 people, most wearing masks, arrived at Invercargill Airport from Auckland.

One passenger, who wished to remain anonymous, said his trip to visit his daughter and grandchildren in Auckland was cut short following last Tuesday’s announcement.

“I was supposed to be moving my daughter into a new house.

“As soon as I heard there was a possibility [the alert levels could increase] I decided to come home.”

A farm owner, he did not want to get stuck in Auckland.

“It is what it is but it’s a damn shame to see that jet so empty.”

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