Auckland Airport changes coronavirus policy after cramped transfer bus appals passenger

Auckland Airport has introduced a new transfer policy for airlines after complaints about overcrowding on transfer buses from passengers trying to abide by social distancing advice amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

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Aucklander Sian Simpson says passengers were not spaced apart on her transfer bus or at queues at the airport. Source: 1 NEWS

Auckland Airport says buses, which can carry up to 90 travellers, can now no longer carry any more than 30 passengers at any time.

It comes after an Auckland businesswoman spoke to 1 NEWS criticising the management of passengers from her flight into New Zealand early this morning, saying she and others were put at risk by being crammed onto a transfer bus.

Entrepeneur Sian Simpson says she flew from Portland to San Fransisco and on to Auckland this morning on flight NZ7, landing at 5.20am.

She says plenty of precautions were taken on the Air NZ flight around social distancing, with crew spacing out passengers so no one was sitting too close.

But she says when the plane landed, passengers were crammed "shoulder to shoulder" onto a transfer bus, along with passengers who were coughing and sneezing.

"Everyone's anxiety started to increase because we couldn't figure out why are they putting us on buses when that's not really good for traceability and there wasn't really anyone else flying in, so why couldn't we use an airbridge?

"We were really close to people - like shoulder-to-shoulder - and some people even were trying not to get onto the bus because they were nervous about being so close to people."

She says there were people on the bus who seemed unwell, with symptoms like coughing and sneezing, and that created more concern amongst passengers.

"It was obvious people were trying to stay away from those people, so we were even more packed in.”

"Everyone who was on the bus was pretty mortified. I almost started crying. It was pretty unfair when you're trying your hardest to keep yourself safe and other people safe."

Ms Simpson says crowding continued in the terminal, with nothing to enforce social distancing in queues.

"We were all in massive line, like six people across, so if you're trying to do social distancing or worried about community spread, I don't think that they're really catering for that right now.

"It was funny because over the overhead [announcement] there was the 'you should stand a metre apart' and everyone was laughing and looking around saying 'how do we do that?' because there is this massive group of people.

“There was two parts. There were people checking your form and checking in with nurses. The form part was just a free-for-all where there was people everywhere."

In relation to the bus overcrowding, Auckland Airport says airlines are responsible for deplaning “at all times”.

“Airlines and their ground handlers are responsible for the process of deplaning and releasing travellers onto a bus or air bridge,” an Auckland Airport spokesperson told 1 NEWS.

The spokesperson also said the airport has introduced PA announcements through the terminals every eight minutes to remind people about the importance of social distancing, and that roving staff members have also been discussing this with travellers.

An Air NZ spokesperson told 1 NEWS four buses which each could transport 90 passengers were supplied to transport customers from the aircraft to the terminal.

With the aircraft carrying 156 passengers, this would provide adequate space on each bus, the spokesperson said.

"We will, however, be looking into physical distancing procedures further," the Air NZ spokesperson said.