Australia has temporarily suspended its one-way travel bubble from New Zealand for a second time following Auckland’s new snap lockdown.
Air New Zealand has also responded to the new restrictions by closing lounges in the country’s capital, stopping food and beverage service and offering to waive fees passengers pay to change flights.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Auckland region would enter ‘stage three’ restrictions for 72 hours following three people testing positive to the more transmissible UK variant of COVID.
The rest of the country will be deemed stage two, meaning social distancing will be reintroduced to keep groups of passengers apart.
Australia’s Department of Health responded by asking all arrivals during the lockdown period who arrive in the country to enter 14 days of hotel quarantine.
“The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee will consider further updates from New Zealand tomorrow and provide advice to the Chief Medical Officer regarding the management of travel arrangements between New Zealand and Australia,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand released a statement urging all passengers to check to see if they are eligible to travel.
Under alert level three restrictions, for instance, residents can only travel around their local area for permitted reasons, such as shopping or exercise.
“From tomorrow, Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounges and valet parking will close,” said the business in a statement. “Due to capacity restrictions under alert level two, the maximum number of people able to access the airline’s lounges in other regions is capped at 100.
“While the country is at elevated alert levels, Air New Zealand will be taking extra precautions to keep its staff and customers safe. Air New Zealand front line staff and cabin crew will be wearing masks and gloves and customers are required to continue to wear face coverings onboard.
“Customers with existing bookings between Monday, 15 February and Sunday, 21 February who wish to rebook to travel before Sunday, 7 March will have any fare difference waived, and customers can call the contact centre to arrange this.
“In addition to this, customers who hold a ticket for a domestic flight scheduled to depart up until 30 March 2021 and no longer wish to travel are able to opt in for credit and can do this via the airline’s online booking tool.
“Customers who are unable to manage their booking online do not need to contact Air New Zealand immediately or prior to their flight’s departure – assistance will be provided at a later date to find an alternative flight option or a credit note can be arranged.”
The new cases in Auckland were household contacts of an airport laundry worker who worked at LSG Sky Chefs.
The news marks the second time Australia has suspended the arrangement, after closing down for a week in January.
A one-way ‘travel bubble’ opened in October 2019 allowing Kiwis to enter Australia without quarantine, but not the other way around.
However, two months later, New Zealand pledged to drop its border restrictions in the first quarter of 2021, making the bubble reciprocal.