COVID-19: Aviation sector

Information and guidance for the aviation sector.

Last updated: 20 July 2021

Updates to the Air and Isolation and Quarantine Border Orders

With effect from 20 December 2020, the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border and Isolation and Quarantine) Amendment Order (No 2) 2020 gave effect to the following changes:

  • an amendment to the definition of ‘aircrew’ to include some repositioning aircrew;
  • exclusion from managed isolation for a few more classes of people, where the health risk is deemed very low;
  • amendments to the restrictions for New Zealand-based aircrew operating international flights
  • other minor technical changes;

The following links take you to the updated Orders:

On this page:


Airline and airport operators of quarantine-free travel

Quarantine-free (QF) travel is provided for under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border) Order (No 2) 2020. The Air Border Order is made under the COVID-19 Public Health and Response Act 2020.

QF flights may be undertaken only by carriers specified in the Order, and only to or from New Zealand QF ports also specified in the order.

As at 23 June 2021 the specified QF carriers are:

  • Air New Zealand Limited
  • Jetstar Airways Proprietary Limited
  • Qantas Airways Limited
  • Air Chathams Limited

As at 27 April 2021 the specified New Zealand QF ports are:

  • Auckland International Airport
  • Christchurch International Airport
  • Queenstown International Airport
  • Wellington International Airport

QF air travel is being rolled out in a graduated way. At this time only commercial operators (those operating flights for remuneration or hire) are able to apply to become QF carriers. Further work will be undertaken on the processes required to assure Government that private aircraft (as opposed to commercial) are able to meet all necessary requirements (especially health requirements pre-departure, during the journey and on arrival into New Zealand).

Any new carriers and/or ports that qualify would be added through an amended Order, once they have satisfied the prescribed requirements.

The current information for airlines and airports on these requirements and the process for achieving designation as a QF carrier is available here:

Please note, these requirements may be subject to amendment/update.

Airlines and airports wanting further information on whether they are able to apply or about how to participate in QF Travel should contact [email protected]

At this stage the maritime border remains closed to all but approved commercial and trade vessels.


Border Worker Vaccination

To prevent COVID-19 coming into our communities, we must continuously strengthen our border by protecting all people who work there. Alongside workers at Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facilities, workers at the border are at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID -19.

Because COVID-19 is an ever-present risk at airports and ports, the mandatory vaccination requirement (which already applies to MIQ workers) has been expanded to include people who undertake work in these areas.


Required COVID-19 testing for aircrew and airport workers

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020 requires routine testing of specified aviation workers for COVID-19.

You are required to be tested every 7 days if you are:

  • Aircrew members
  • Health practitioners and health workers carrying out work airside
  • Health practitioners and health workers working at accommodation services (other than private dwellinghouses) where relevant aircrew members are self-isolating
  • Persons (other than excluded airport persons) who spend more than 15 minutes in enclosed space on board aircraft that arrives from location outside New Zealand

You are required to be tested every 14 days if you are:

  • Airside government officials (other than excluded airport persons),
  • Airside district health board workers (other than excluded airport persons)
  • Airside retail, food, and beverage workers (other than excluded airport persons)
  • Airside workers (other than excluded airport persons) handling baggage trolleys used by international arriving or international transiting passengers
  • Airside airline workers (other than excluded airport persons) who interact with passengers
  • Airside airport workers (other than excluded airport persons) who interact with passengers
  • Airside cleaning workers (other than excluded airport persons)
  • All other airside workers (other than excluded airport persons)
  • All landside workers who interact with international arriving or international transiting passengers
  • Baggage handlers who work at affected airports and who handle baggage from affected aircraft
  • Persons (other than excluded airport persons) who spend no more than 15 minutes in enclosed space on board affected aircraft
  • All landside workers who interact with relevant aircrew members
  • All landside workers (other than excluded airport persons) who interact with international arriving or international transiting passengers.
  • Workers at accommodation services (other than private dwellinghouses) where relevant aircrew members are self-isolating
  • Workers who handle affected items within 24 hours of their removal from affected aircraft and who have contact with members of any of the groups specified above, while both are working

Note: Workers can be exempt if an aircraft has not arrived at the affected airport from a location outside New Zealand for a period of at least 14 consecutive days.


Aircrew exemptions

The Minister has agreed to an exemption from the Air Border Order for aircrew who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand and are subject to clause 24 of the Order (being outside of New Zealand for a continuous period of at least seven days or had travelled domestically outside New Zealand within the seven days immediately before arrival in New Zealand) 

A copy of this exemption is available on the New Zealand Gazette website.

A risk assessment and determination required by the conditions of the exemption has been carried out for Australia and has determined that no isolation or quarantine period is required for aircrew subject to this exemption on return to New Zealand from Australia.

Risk assessments and determinations for other destinations have not been carried out. Please contact the Border Operations team [email protected] for more information. 


Designated higher-risk routes

Clause 9 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border) Order (No 2) 2020 provides that the Director-General may designate a route of travel between a place outside New Zealand and another place (in or outside New Zealand) as a higher-risk route. If a route of travel is designated as a higher-risk route, then aircrew who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand and who return from flying these routes must self-isolate in accordance with Part 1A of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Isolation and Quarantine) Order 2020 unless exempt. For more information on who is exempt, please see the information under the heading Exemption from self-isolation for aircrew members who are fully vaccinated and who fly a higher-risk route on a plane operated by Air New Zealand below.

The Director-General has designated the following routes as higher-risk routes from 11.59 pm on 23 July 2021:

  1. Los Angeles and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  2. San Francisco and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  3. Narita and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  4. Seoul and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  5. Hong Kong and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  6. Guangzhou and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  7. Shanghai and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  8. Taipei and any airport in or outside New Zealand.

The designation notice is available on the New Zealand Gazette website.


Guidance for aircrew to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection

Requirements for aircrew who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand

Because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international aircrew are mostly exempt from a 14 day isolation or quarantine period as long as they meet certain conditions – both in flight and during layovers.

This guidance has been updated to reflect changes brought in by the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border and Isolation and Quarantine) Amendment Order (No 2) 2020. It gives a summary of the requirements New Zealand-based aircrew should meet on their international layover and when they return to New Zealand:

This document provides guidance on the legal requirements for aircrew when undertaking Quarantine Free Travel, including when aircrew intend to travel as passengers.

Exemption from self-isolation for aircrew members who are fully vaccinated and who fly a higher-risk route on a plane operated by Air New Zealand

The Minister has granted an exemption to some specified aircrew members from the requirement to self-isolate on return to New Zealand in accordance with Part 1A of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Isolation and Quarantine) Order 2020 after flying a higher risk route. 

Exemption notice

The exemption applies to specified aircrew members who:

  • arrive in New Zealand on an aircraft undertaking a flight operated by Air New Zealand Limited as part of a scheduled international air service, and
  • have travelled on a higher-risk route on an aircraft operated by Air New Zealand as part of a scheduled international air service within 7 days immediately before arriving in New Zealand, and  
  • are fully vaccinated 

In this context, fully vaccinated means having received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The exemption is subject to the condition that a suitably qualified health practitioner responsible for the medical examination and testing of the aircrew member at the airport is satisfied that the aircrew member is at a low risk of having or transmitting COVID-19. Therefore, symptomatic aircrew will not meet this condition and will not be exempt.

The exemption does not apply if the aircrew member:

  • is not ordinarily resident in New Zealand;
  • arrives in New Zealand on an aircraft undertaking a QFT flight;
  • is a pilot returning from flight simulator training (other than in a QFT place);
  • was outside New Zealand for a continuous period of at least 7 days immediately before arriving by air in New Zealand (other than in a QFT place); or
  • has travelled domestically outside New Zealand within the least 7 days immediately before arriving by air in New Zealand (other than in a QFT place)

In addition, the exemption does not apply if a medical officer of health determines (on the basis of information brought to their attention) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, within the 7 days immediately before arriving in New Zealand by air and while anywhere outside New Zealand (except for a QFT place), the aircrew member failed to meet 1 or more of the key safety standards.

At present, the Director-General of Health has designated the following routes of travel as higher-risk routes:

  1. Los Angeles and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  2. San Francisco and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  3. Narita and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  4. Seoul and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  5. Hong Kong and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  6. Guangzhou and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  7. Shanghai and any airport in or outside New Zealand
  8. Taipei and any airport in or outside New Zealand.

The exemption will begin at 11.59 pm on 30 June 2021.

If an aircrew member is required to self-isolate, they must continue to follow the existing self-isolation requirements.

Guidelines for Air New Zealand staff staying in a self-isolation hotel 

Under an agreement between Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Government, all Air New Zealand aircrew who must self-isolate on return to New Zealand after flying a higher-risk route will stay in a prearranged self-isolation hotel. The guidelines below provide more information on self-isolating in a self-isolation hotel.

Requirements for overseas-based aircrew

From 4 October 2020, overseas-based aircrew are required to stay in a managed isolation facility for the duration of their layover while in New Zealand. Overseas-based aircrew can leave the managed isolation facility prior to their departing flight from New Zealand.

This guidance gives a summary of what overseas-based aircrew should do while on their layover in New Zealand, including travel to and from the airport:

Guidance for airports, airlines and workers at the air border to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection

The Ministry has produced guidance for airports, airlines and workers at the air border to assist passengers, crew and workers reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19. 

There are two versions of the guidance – for Green and Red zones respectively.

These documents have been created using a mix of international guidance with regard to Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and local knowledge, and will continue to be reviewed by the Ministry to ensure they reflect best practice in IPC for COVID-19.


Airlines’ responsibilities

New Zealand-based airlines and overseas-based airlines and ground handlers should support aircrew to comply with their legal obligations. Airlines should have in place a process to check and provide assurance of good compliance by aircrew. This may include, but not be limited to surveys, spot checks, contact tracing apps.

Airlines should report breaches to the Ministry of Health and to border agencies prior to entry into New Zealand, if known before arrival. Breaches can also be reported to the Ministry of Health on arrival into New Zealand. Ministry of Health may undertake audits or spot checks to ensure the aircrew requirements are being adhered to.

Send report breaches to [email protected].

Aircrew who are not on the crew manifest for the plane arriving in New Zealand are not exempt from quarantine or isolation and will be managed the same as other travellers arriving into New Zealand.

Face masks on international flights into New Zealand

Medical grade masks (not cloth masks) need to be available for all passengers on international flights into New Zealand.


Requirements for international aeromedical transfers involving New Zealand and overseas-based medical attendants

New Zealand-based medical attendants assisting with medical air transfers are exempt from undertaking 14-days quarantine or isolation on their return to New Zealand. As they are exempt, they should follow international medical transfer requirements to ensure the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is reduced and help keep our borders safe. New Zealand-based medical attendants follow the same guidelines as New Zealand-based aircrew who undertake a high risk layover. On return to New Zealand, they must self-isolate, have a COVID-19 test on day two after their arrival into New Zealand, and continue to self-isolate until the result of that test has been returned.

Overseas-based medical attendants are required to enter a managed isolation facility for the duration of their layover in New Zealand, unless they remain airside.

See Medical transfer (road and air) for more information and guidance documents.

Health staff working in airports receiving quarantine-free flights

This document outlines what is required from District Health Board and Public Health Unit staff working at airports receiving quarantine-free flights. It is a living document and will be updated as required.

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