Cook Islands officials say travellers from Wellington can once again travel under the bubble arrangement, after some passengers were removed from a flight to Rarotonga.
Meanwhile Air New Zealand says it is covering the travel and accommodation costs for those who were unexpectedly offloaded from the flight.
The airline said customers who were not able to travel on flight NZ940 from Auckland to Rarotonga on Thursday morning had been rebooked to travel back to Wellington free of charge.
“Once they are cleared to travel by the Cook Islands Government, they will be rebooked on a service to bring them back to Auckland to catch the Rarotonga flight,” a spokesperson said.
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The airline would also cover the accommodation costs for customers who had to stay in Auckland overnight.
A Friday morning flight from Auckland to Rarotonga would operate as scheduled.
Ian Ryan and his partner were due to go on a 10-day holiday to the Cook Islands, but were among the passengers taken off the flight.
The pair had flown from Wellington to Auckland early on Thursday for the 8.55am flight to Rarotonga.
Half the passengers were already on the plane when boarding abruptly stopped, and passengers were offloaded, Ryan said.
Ryan said they had no idea what was happening. Passengers were told there was a list of names of people who were not allowed to take the flight. That included passengers from Wellington, and others, he said.
“We were later told there was a mistake on that list and it was [just] passengers from Wellington.”
By then the flight had departed, with some passengers who should have been on it left behind, he said.
Te Marae Ora, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health, said it had ordered the 13 passengers to be removed from the flight to give itself more time to assess the situation in Wellington, after an Australian traveller tested positive for Covid-19 and the capital moved to alert level 2.
Cook Islands Tourism general manager for New Zealand and Australia Graeme West said going forward, the only New Zealanders who will be restricted from visiting the Cook Islands will be those who were at locations of interest in Wellington.
“They cannot travel because they should be in isolation anyway in Wellington based on the Ministry of Health requirements,” he said.
”If you’re a Wellingtonian who is travelling tomorrow or the next day, it’s all good as gold. You just do everything as normal, which does include filling out the form 24 hours before departure…. other than that, there are no restrictions.”