Top microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles has called on Air New Zealand to stop serving food and drinks on domestic flights amid concerns they're needlessly encouraging the removal of masks.
In a Twitter thread this morning, the infectious diseases expert said while people must wear masks on flights by law, it "has felt to me like @FlyAirNZ have never taken this requirement seriously, as they've continued offering food & drink."
She said the offering - typically "a cookie or some chips" - leads to people removing their masks to eat and drink.
"It’s not like we can’t survive the hour or two without them," she said.
"This makes me really angry, as they got a massive bail out from the government to keep them viable & so surely in return they should be doing their bit for our team of 5 million."
Wiles said she has sent feedback to the national carrier several times questioning their policy, but has yet to receive a response.
"Fast forward to this week, less then 2 weeks from the recent Covid-19 cases identified in the community. And @FlyAirNZ are STILL serving food and drink on internal flights! WTF?!"
She also criticised the airline following the publishing of a paper yesterday by the "Plan B boys" advocating for the loosening of border restrictions.
Wiles said the paper, which calls for the implementation of a traffic light system at the border, uses mathematical models developed by
Punaha Matatini, but did not contact those who worked on the modelling but, rather, "paid the people who’ve been against our elimination strategy & are STILL arguing against it!"
She has since apologised, saying "someone on their payroll" had "hooked up with the Plan B lot to do work funded by Auckland International Airport" but Air New Zealand may not have been aware of the move.
"I’m super disappointed by the lack of leadership shown by @FlyAirNZ during this pandemic. It’s only because we followed Plan A and not Plan B that we are even able to safely fly internally right now. Yet they continue to undermine our public health messaging. Shame on them."
In a statement, Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran told 1 NEWS in a recent review that the Ministry of Health was "supportive of us" continuing to serve food and beverages under Alert Level 1.
"We continue to have regular dialogue around our settings with the MOH and the Ministry of Transport to ensure we keep everyone safe," he said. "Customers are of course still required to keep their mask or face covering on while they are not eating or drinking."
Foran added that in his experience travelling on domestic services serving tea and coffee once a week, "around two-thirds of our customers opt to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and a snack while on board."
The airline has since reached out to Wiles to engage in a dialogue about the measures in place.