Emirates suspends Dubai to Auckland flight bookings for three weeks

It is becoming increasing difficult for Antipodeans around the world to get home

An Emirates Airlines aircraft takes off beyond an Air New Zealand Ltd. aircraft at the International Terminal of Auckland Airport in Auckland, New Zealand, on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. New Zealand’s government will limit the number of citizens flying home with the national airline to reduce pressure on its overflowing quarantine facilities. Photographer: Brendon O'Hagan/Bloomberg
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New Zealanders in the UAE will be unable to book a flight home for the next three weeks.

A temporary suspension on flight bookings has been put into effect by Emirates, after the New Zealand government announced it is restricting inbound capacity to ease pressure on quarantine facilities.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday said the New Zealand government was working with airlines to control increasing numbers of Kiwis wanting to return home. This means restricting capacity on flights.

Emirates restarted its Dubai-Auckland service on Wednesday, July 1, and currently operates the route four times a week.

On Wednesday, an Emirates spokeswoman told The National that new bookings would "temporarily be unavailable for the next three weeks".

"Existing bookings during this period will remain unaffected. The safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority and we are working with the relevant authorities to minimise disruption.”

New Zealand ambassador to the UAE Matthew Hawkins urged Kiwis abroad to monitor the government's Safe Travel website for updates and to sign up to the website for alerts.

The New Zealand government is managing flights into the country to ensure it is able to safely place returnees into a managed isolation or quarantine facility.

Air New Zealand, the country's national carrier, has also put a temporary hold on new bookings and is now looking at aligning daily arrivals with the capacity available at managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

Safe Travel has warned this could also have a flow-on effect for months to come for those coming from further afield and connecting to Air New Zealand flights from Emirates or Etihad Airways flights.

"New Zealanders should be aware that transit options to return to New Zealand are limited, booked flights may be cancelled and immigration requirements of other countries can quickly change," the statement said.

"New Zealand cannot influence or guarantee another country or airline’s entry, exit or transit requirements and it is the responsibility of each traveller to check the latest requirements themselves."

New Zealand has garnered international praise for its handling of the pandemic, including most recently from WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The Pacific nation's only active cases of Covid-19 are people who are new arrivals and are in managed isolation facilities. There is currently no evidence of community transmission, and 67 days have passed since the last locally acquired case from an unknown source recovered.

Nonetheless, it has become increasingly difficult for Antipodeans to return home in recent days.

Flights have been diverted from Melbourne until Tuesday, July 14, as the city grapples with containing a new spike of cases and enforcing another lockdown in parts of the city.

As a result, other airports across Australia have begun introducing passengers limited on flights. Sydney, for example, has now introduced a cap of 50 people per flight, and a maximum number of 450 travellers per day.

Certain states in Australia have also started making travellers pay for their own quarantine costs, a mandatory 14-day hotel stay.