Travellers planning to return to New Zealand in the next six weeks might be out of luck, with managed isolation vouchers now booked out until three days before Christmas.
The new system, introduced on October 5 and which has applied to flights since November 3, has been in heavy demand as Kiwis rush to get home for Christmas and the summer holidays.
On Monday, another 100 rooms a day were made available between December 13 and 23, but these had almost all now been snapped up.
Just December 22, 23 and 25 are available next month, while much of January and February are open, as of Wednesday.
The new system is designed to ensure when people book their flights there is a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility space available.
However, it has caught many Kiwis planning to return for Christmas off guard, and also some travellers who booked their flights prior to it going live on October 5 and missed out on vouchers.
A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman said the Government would not refund flights where people missed out on vouchers for their travel dates.
Due to Covid-19, flight data could be very changeable, and most airfares were flexible, she said.
Airlines advised them of confirmed flight schedules, which they then loaded into the managed isolation allocation system.
“This will impact on people booking when they are unable to find their flight details in the managed isolation allocation system, because the flight has not been registered or the time has been altered.
“We have been encouraging people to contact their airline to confirm their flights in these situations. We communicated this on the MIAS website in October.”
There are 32 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities across the country, with capacity for 6261 people at a time.
From October 5 to November 10, 38,483 passengers had used the voucher system.
Initially vouchers could only be booked two months in advance, but MBIE has been adding spaces further ahead as it confirmed airline schedules.
Spaces are currently available between December 22 and February 28, and more can become available on other dates if people change their travel plans and cancel their voucher.
There was no queue if people missed their preferred date, and they needed to continually check to see if any spaces were available, the spokeswoman said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended the system and urged anyone with a MIQ voucher who would not be using it to let officials know so space could be freed up.
She encouraged people overseas who might have missed out to keep checking.
Here is the voucher system explained.
Q: What is it?
A: Travellers who have the legal right to enter New Zealand must also have a pre-booked voucher for 14-days of managed isolation or quarantine facility before boarding their flight, unless exempt from the system (see MBIE website for more info). This includes travellers returning from quarantine-free entry to Australia. They will need to present their voucher at the airport in order to board their flight.
Q: How do I secure a spot?
A: Register an account on the Managed Isolation Allocation System – an online portal. Click here for more information. Enter passenger details and select the intended date of arrival before booking your flights. A 14-day stay in managed isolation, starting on this day, will be held for 48 hours while you book flights. Vouchers cover up to 12 people.
Q: What if I booked my flights months ago?
A: Register on the allocation system portal and enter the flight details into the system to confirm the managed isolation allocation. If managed isolation facilities are already fully booked MBIE advice is for travellers to change their flights. The Government will not provide refunds in these situations.
Q: What if my flight number is not listed?
A: Airlines advise MBIE of their confirmed flight schedules, which are then loaded into the managed isolation allocation system. A flight may be operating under multiple flight numbers from different airlines. The flight number that is required to obtain a voucher is the final flight arriving into New Zealand. If the flight is not listed people should check flight details with the airline.
Q: What if my flight is rescheduled or cancelled?
A: Airlines will work with the Government to manage the rescheduling of the allocation with new flight details, while if the flight is cancelled travellers will need to find and reserve the next available allocation date in the system before booking a new flight.
Q: Does it cost anything?
A: There is no fee for getting a voucher. However, people will be charged $3100 per room, plus $950 for each additional adult and $475 per child, for their stay in managed isolation or quarantine unless they are exempt.
Q: Can I choose where I will isolate?
A: No. Passengers on the same flight are typically allocated to the same managed isolation facility, except those assessed as having a higher risk of Covid-19, who will enter quarantine.
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