Fifteen flights to Australia from New Zealand, and their highly prized places in hotel quarantine, have sold out in three minutes with people keen to return pre-Christmas.
Stranded Aussies and Kiwis on both sides of the Tasman Sea headed online at 8 am on Monday morning in the hope of securing a passage home.
While many secured flights and places in quarantine, thousands more were left disappointed.
Australians stuck in New Zealand were alerted to a new batch of flights last week.
Air New Zealand executive Leanne Geraghty said all 15 flights – from Auckland to Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – were sold out by 8.03 am.
“Our heart goes out to those customers who have missed out,” she said.
“We were allocated a very limited number of managed isolation spaces to return customers home to Australia.
“Even though some flights will only have very limited people onboard, we are committed to operating these to get people home.”
Tens of thousands of Kiwis, both in Australia and further aboard, missed out on securing a return home to New Zealand at the same time.
On Monday morning, about 3200 places in New Zealand’s mandatory quarantine system – known locally as MIQ – were opened up after weeks without places available.
Demand has far outstripped supply. MIQ head Megan Main said about 25,000 people logged into the MIQ virtual lobby in the hope of finding a place.
“This number continues to grow as people have been entering the queue throughout the room release,” she said.
More than 170,000 people have undertaken quarantine in New Zealand since the start of the pandemic.
Ms Main said more places would come online next week.
Click here for Air New Zealand flights.
Share this story