Canberra Airport has called for expressions of interest for the first trans-Tasman flight to Wellington, which it said could operate as soon as 1 July – subject to government approval.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry unveiled the full details of its proposal on Thursday, which allows would-be travellers to register their interest.
The plan, however, does not have formal backing of the airlines or either government, and is separate to that being drafted up by the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group.
Speaking to The Australian, an Air New Zealand spokesperson said that the airline “does not intend to operate this route”, stating that “international travel will resume once border restrictions have lifted”.
Canberra Airport, backed by the local, Auckland, and Wellington chambers of commerce, is pressing ahead with the idea, which would see a graded reopening of the trans-Tasman bubble beginning with flights between the two capital cities.
“You’ve got businesses hanging on for dear life where every day matters. If we delay this by a matter of months or indeed four to six weeks beyond July 1, you’re guaranteeing significant bankruptcy in the tourism sector that could be averted,” said Stephen Byron, Canberra Airport managing director.
Under the proposal, all Australian passengers would be tested for the coronavirus prior to departure. New Zealanders travelling to Australia would also be encouraged to use the Morrison government’s COVIDSafe app.
“The incremental approach will allow the early recommencement of travel between Australia and New Zealand and it will reunite families and friends who have been desperate to reconnect since the borders closed on 19 March 2020,” said Michael Barnett, Auckland Business Chamber chief executive.
“It is proposed that passengers will be able to travel from Wellington throughout New Zealand and that travellers arriving in Canberra will be able to travel to NSW and Victoria and any other Australian state that has reopened its borders.”