Sunday, November 28

Travelers were given an additional 24-hour extension to get home after many were stranded


Travelers stranded in Queenstown have been given a temporary respite before the travel window is ready to slam shut.

queenstown airport

Queenstown Airport.
Photo: 123RF

Hundreds of people are in the city trying to get back, and there were concerns that they would remain stranded if the window was closed at midnight.

Air New Zealand quickly put up additional flights, but due to the unique configuration of the landing at Queenstown, it became a tightening point.

On Thursday afternoon, the prime minister announced that the initial 48-hour travel window would be extended by 24 hours until midnight Friday for flights from Queenstown and trips on the Cook Strait ferry.

New Plymouth resident Janine Fenelon and her partner were on vacation in Wanaka when news of the closure and 48-hour travel window arrived.

He spent a few hours waiting with Air New Zealand, trying to find out how they were getting home.

“There were just no flights. We had flights booked for Sunday. But since Sunday is outside of that 48 hour period, and we were told that Air New Zealand would not fly after midnight tonight, we made the call to take the Let it be options that we were offered, “Fenelon said.

“There were no options to fly from Queenstown, so they offered us flights from Invercargill or Christchurch.”

With the decision made and flights booked, they began their long journey home on Wednesday morning.

“We got in the car around 10.45am, and drove to Christchurch, arrived at 4.30pm. Our flight from Christchurch airport was leaving at 6pm. So that flight left on time, we got to Auckland and then a delay in Auckland Luckily they stopped the plane so we could get on the flight.

They got home around 11 p.m., instead of a four-hour drive, it took them 12.

But Fenelon said they were grateful for the help they received, the scenic drive past Aoraki Mt Cook, and finally being safely home.

Palmerston North Nurse Kari Highstead arrived in Queenstown a few days earlier to enjoy the views before a medical conference.

“I came in on Tuesday and did some things and then, you know, we started having the announcements and I knew at that point the conference would be canceled. So I talked to my husband and … I said ‘Look, I can just stay until Saturday. [to] just keep my flight [and] I don’t have to rearrange anything. I’ll be fine down here. I have an Airbnb and I have food. ‘

All of that changed when news of the 48-hour travel window arrived.

Many phone updates and a few calls later, she managed to book a flight out of Queenstown and came home tired but relieved Thursday afternoon.

More time for travelers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave travelers a bit more room to breathe this afternoon, extending the travel window for another 24 hours.

“We will contact them again because we have heard that there is a high demand there. The problem, as you will know for Queenstown, is due to the particular situation of the runway and the airport there, there are certain pilots who have the ability to enter and out of that airport, “Ardern said.

“And that limits the number of flights they can take, but I know that Air New Zealand is working very hard to increase their capacity.”

Air New Zealand said it was confident that there would be enough seats available to help those stranded in Queenstown to return home.

The airline would operate seven services from Queenstown to Auckland or Wellington tomorrow with an additional 700 seats.

The Interislander was adding more departures Thursday night and Friday, asking anyone who needs to make a reservation to visit their website or call their call center.

***

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***

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