Air Chathams is maintaining flights between Whanganui and Auckland, and says it’s doing everything in its power to ensure passenger health and wellbeing.
“I can’t believe how fast this thing has moved, it’s just incredible,” general manager Duane Emeny said.
“I don’t think anyone, even the oldest members of the community, has experienced something like this.”
Despite the ongoing threat from Covid-19, Emeny said regular flights will continue throughout the next few days.
“The key message from us is yes, we are downscaling, but we’re only cutting 10 flights per week, and we’re still using our 34-seat aircraft.
“It’s really important that the community knows we’re still connected to Auckland.”
Emeny said stringent measures had been taken to ensure travellers were as safe as possible when using Air Chathams’ services.
“We’re very aware of all the Ministry of Health guidelines around safe practice, and there’s a company pandemic plan we’re currently working through.
“It’s critical that there’s a mitigation process in place to avoid the damaging effects of someone unknowingly carrying Covid-19 travelling on our aircraft.
“That’s something in particular that people are really concerned about, and rightly so.”
The airline had increased cleaning schedules and procedures, with Super Clean Whanganui providing “fresh off the belt” products, Emeny said.
“They’re pretty gnarly, by all accounts.
“Our crew is cleaning at night and during the midday change around, and we’re donning PPE gear and cleaning between sectors.”
The aircraft have been taken to maintenance and had all the cabin filters changed as well.
Hand sanitiser has been provided at check-in, with additional signage added at all locations. Emeny said the crew was checking with passengers about their health and wellbeing before they boarded their flights.
“If someone can’t travel, we’ll give them an EMD, which is effectively a credit.
“We’re not cancelling tickets, and people can keep their money and rebook when their healthy enough to fly.”
Reassurance from the Government, and financial aid from the Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust, has been an “amazing support”, Emeny said.
“The Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust has loaned us $500,000 to keep things fluid, and our CEO, my father Craig (Emeny), has directly briefed Travel Minister Phil Twyford about our situation, which is reasonably dire to say the least.
“His exact words were, ‘we want to see Air Chathams come through this, and we will support you to ensure this happens’.
“We’re experiencing some rough times at the moment, but we remain committed to serving Whanganui, Kapiti Coast, Whakatāne and our homeland of the Chatham Islands.”