Air New Zealand is set to operate up to five daily flights between Sydney and Auckland when the two-way, trans-Tasman bubble opens on 19 April.
The airline said it would significantly increase its network between the two countries, which will also include three daily flight between Auckland and Melbourne, as well as seven flights per week between Auckland and Perth.
It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed on Tuesday afternoon the bubble would launch imminently but could be paused at short notice, causing Virgin to opt out of flying most routes until 31 October.
The new Air New Zealand schedule is (destination – start date – frequency):
- Brisbane – 19 April – 1-2 flights per day
- Melbourne – 19 April – 1-3 flights per day
- Sydney – 19 April – 3-5 flights per day
- Perth – 19 April (subject to approval) – 6-7 flights per week
- Gold Coast – 19 April – 6-7 flights per week
- Adelaide – 5 May – 3-4 flights per week
- Sunshine Coast – 28 June – 3 flights per week
- Cairns – 29 June – 3 flights per week
- Hobart – TBC – 2 flights per week
- Brisbane – 19 April – 3-5 flights per week
- Melbourne – 19 April – 4-6 flights per week
- Sydney – 19 April – 6-10 flights per week
- Brisbane – 19 April – 5-7 flights per week
- Melbourne – 19 April – 6-7 flights per week
- Sydney – 19 April – 7-11 flights per week
- Gold Coast – 24 April – 1-3 flights per week
- Melbourne – 19 April – 3-5 flights per week
- Sydney – 19 April – 4-7 flights per week
- Brisbane – 5 May – 3 flights per week
Air New Zealand’s chief executive, Greg Foran, said the airline has been preparing for the launch of the bubble for months, bringing furloughed crew back and ensuring they are up to speed with training.
“This is terrific news. I know Kiwis and Australians have been wanting to reconnect with whānau and friends for a year now and we’re incredibly excited to be playing a part in those reunions,” said Foran.
“I’ll certainly be digging out my passport for the first time since I joined the airline to head across the ditch to see my family and I’m especially looking forward to meeting some of my grandchildren for the first time.
“Our people have shown incredible agility of the past 12 months as things have changed at an unbelievable pace. I’ve spoken to several [of] our front-line staff who are thrilled to show our customers the world-class Air New Zealand customer service once again.
“We’d like to say a huge thanks to New Zealanders for standing by us while we’ve mainly been a domestic business for the past year. I’m extremely proud to say that we’ve got one of the most robust domestic businesses of any airline around the world. We look forward to being able to extend that across the Tasman.
“Pre-COVID-19, Australia was the largest tourism market for both our airline and New Zealand. We know a lot of tourism operators have been feeling the lack of international visitors so we’re looking forward to playing a role in New Zealand’s recovery.”
The news comes despite Virgin Australia surprisingly announcing it won’t fly most of its New Zealand routes until 31 October. It followed PM Ardern warning passengers travelling to Australia to “plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted” if there is a COVID outbreak.
“For instance, if a case is found that is quite clearly linked to a border worker in a quarantine facility and is well contained, you’ll likely see travel continue in the same way as you could see life continue if that happened here in Australia,” explained Prime Minister Ardern.
“If, however, a case was found that was not clearly linked to the border, and a state responded by a short lockdown to identify more information, we’d likely pause flights from that state in the same way we would stop travel into and out of a region in New Zealand as if it was going into a full lockdown.
“And if we saw multiple cases of unknown origin, we would likely suspend flights for a set period of time.”
A one-way ‘travel bubble’ first opened in October 2020 allowing Kiwis to enter Australia without quarantine, but not the other way around.
Both countries indicated it would be made reciprocal in the first quarter of 2021, however, the move was postponed due to numerous small outbreaks of COVID in both countries.