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South Pacific Bubble Could Fly To Tahiti Next Month

Effective 15 July, Tahiti will once again be welcoming visitors to its COVID-free shores. It is an opportunity that New Zealand based General Manager, Daniel Eggenberger says could be "Lost on Kiwis if a South Pacific bubble doesn’t fly soon.”

Eggenberger applauds New Zealand’s efforts to extinguish community transmission of COVID-19 from the country but stresses that "Now it's time to take the next step in COVID recovery. This means opening the borders to French Polynesia and other South Pacific Islands who have either successfully extinguished COVID-19 or evaded the pandemic altogether."

French Polynesia as had zero deaths linked to COVID-19 and a total of 60 cases, all of which have fully recovered. The nation also implemented a rigorous testing regime on both residents and visitors. French Polynesia was one of the first in the region to implement strict border controls with Air Tahiti Nui being the first airline to employ the services of a registered nurse to conduct pre-departure health checks at Auckland International Airport.

Pre-departure health checks will also be required when French Polynesia opens her borders on the 15 July. It will not be necessary for visitors to quarantine in Tahiti. Still, they will be required to adhere to strict health protocols that will include compulsory COVID-19 testing 72 hours before departure and again, four days after arrival. Eggenberger describes such measures as "Sound practices that support the decision of French Polynesia to open its borders while protecting the health and safety of the nation's residents and visitors ."

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Eggenberger says, “While Tahiti is one of the world’s most desirous holiday destinations and offers a 'Dream vacation' for Kiwis, the push to enable travellers from New Zealand is about more than just fulfilling an idyllic tropical island holiday. The necessity for New Zealand to open the borders to French Polynesia and other South Pacific Islands in a managed and responsible way is key to helping an already struggling airline and tourism sector from downsizing further or even closing their operations in New Zealand altogether."

Eggenberger says "In our case, we can resume flights to Europe and the US as early as July, yet our flights to Auckland are pretty much on ‘auto cancel.’ As capacity is deployed to markets that start opening their borders, it is questionable how long we can justify the costs of our regional headquarters in Auckland.” Eggenberger urges New Zealand to begin opening their borders to countries, such as French Polynesia and other South Pacific Islands, to avoid redundancies once the wage subsidy comes to an end. ”The longer the borders are closed, the higher the risk that international airlines will have to close their offices in New Zealand which would necessitate further job losses throughout the entire local supply chain. Twenty weeks of wage subsidy will not be sufficient to maintain a viable New Zealand operation if the borders remain closed much beyond this period.”

He further believes that “Direct services ex Auckland to French Polynesia and the South Pacific offer a level of containment that together with strict protocols at entry and exit points should be sufficient to enable travel. “

The recent two COVID-19 cases which were brought into New Zealand from the UK show how important it is to strictly follow the protocols and test prior arrival and during the stay. "I have full confidence that the identified health protocols in French Polynesia are strictly followed", says Eggenberger.

As we move forward in our post-pandemic world, it is expected that health and hygiene will undoubtedly feature high in the consideration set of travellers considering not just where to travel but whom to travel with.

Air Tahiti Nui’s new fleet of all Tahitian Dreamliner 787-9 aircraft is equipped with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters which remove 99.97 per cent of contaminants from the recirculated air.

HEPA filters are scientifically developed to be effective against viruses and bacteria. The recirculation airflow contributes to the total airflow in the passenger cabin, diluting the contaminant level in the passenger cabin while minimising the fore and aft airflow within the main passenger cabin, otherwise known as aisle flow.

Following strict manufacturer guidelines, the HEPA filters are removed and replaced frequently to uphold the integrity of their function.

In addition to this latest airflow technology, Air Tahiti Nui has also amplified its already stringent cabin cleaning protocols to include the cleaning and disinfecting of the aircraft at each landing point using elevated cleaning and sanitising solutions. Every aircraft is preventively purified using a fumigation process throughout the whole cabin twice weekly. The result is the delivery of the best hygiene standards for passengers.

It is hoped that creating a ‘safe zone' in the South Pacific region, will enable Kiwi travellers to indulge their passion for travel once again and in doing so protect the valuable contribution made to the people and economy of New Zealand by international organisations who have established operations in New Zealand.

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