Air Rarotonga (GZ, Rarotonga) has adjusted its schedule to reflect a significant drop in demand for travel between the Cook Islands. Despite having resumed operations on April 20, shortly after the South Pacific archipelago was declared COVID-19-free, Air Rarotonga said the absence of tourists has affected both the airline and the national economy.

“Our tourism business to Aitutaki is the backbone for all inter-island air services, and obviously until international border restrictions are lifted we will not see a resumption of anything like normal schedules,” chief executive Ewan Smith told The Cook Islands News in April.

As such, Air Rarotonga said it is currently operating a schedule of 3 weekly flights between Rarotonga and Aitutaki. However, until August 1, domestic services to all other islands will run on an ad-hoc basis.

The privately-owned carrier operates two Saab 340Bs and two E110s on flights throughout the Cook Islands.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown said the government has warmed to calls from the private sector to reopen the country’s borders from July.

“We are actively working with Te Marae Ora [Cook Islands Ministry of Health], the Chamber and tourism to determine what it will take,” he said, “while at the same time protecting our people from the risk of the virus entering our country. We are now in late May and have gone without tourists visiting our shores for two months,” he said.

“While many of us are enjoying the slower pace of life that comes with fewer people on our islands, it is vital to our livelihoods that we look forward and work towards the safest way to open our borders.”