Air New Zealand operated its first quarantine-free flight to Brisbane on Thursday morning.
The news comes months after the first one-way trans-Tasman ‘travel bubble’ opened in October allowing Kiwis to potentially enter Australia without quarantine, but not the other way around.
Brisbane Airport chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff said, “While only a one-way ‘bubble’, we nonetheless expect these flights will bring families back together and support economic activity between New Zealand and our state.
“We look forward to the resumption of two-way travel between our countries soon and will work closely with all relevant bodies to ensure we are ready to go when that happens.”
The Air New Zealand A320-271N, ZK-NHC msn 08833, departed Auckland at 8am as flight NZ147 and landed in Brisbane at 8:33am, local time.
Previously, passengers on the route had to go into hotel isolation because not everyone on the aircraft started their journey in New Zealand, raising the potential for COVID spread.
However, Thursday’s morning’s flight NZ147 was a deemed a designated ‘safe travel zone flight’, meaning everyone on board had to sign a declaration stating they had been only in New Zealand for the preceding 14 days.
Air New Zealand’s chief customer and sales officer, Leanne Geraghty, said, “We currently operate five return flights per week between Auckland and Brisbane.
“Three of these services will be quarantine-free flights, while the remaining two will be quarantine flights. Quarantine flights are not able to be booked by people beginning their journey in New Zealand.”
New Zealand had previously pledged in December to drop its border restrictions to Australia in the first quarter of 2021, however that could now be in doubt with a resurgence of cases across the Tasman.
Speaking before the Avalon cluster, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would name the exact date in 2021 and added any opening wouldn’t take place until contingencies were in place to deal with a future COVID outbreak.
“I think for now, New Zealanders by and large appreciate the approach of the government to ensure that we are not taking on an unnecessary risk as we’re going into the summer,” said PM Ardern.
“We’ve never been wanting to put specific dates prematurely before we’ve made final decisions because people make plans, people book flights, and people may potentially have quarantine bookings that they could cancel.
“We don’t want anyone to do that prematurely until we have certainty around when it will open.”
PM Ardern also added that restrictions wouldn’t be dropped until the country has a plan to get citizens home in the event of a resurgence in infection.
“And it’s not a hypothetical. There have been several,” PM Ardern said. “We would need to make arrangements to have potentially thousands of New Zealanders brought back to New Zealand in numbers that we wouldn’t be able to facilitate, necessarily, managed isolation.”