Air New Zealand has confirmed it will operate flights between Auckland and Hobart for the first time in a generation from 22 April.
The airline earlier said the route would restart as soon as the trans-Tasman bubble opened and has now revealed the flights will depart on Thursdays and Sundays using its A320 fleet.
It comes after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed quarantine-free travel would launch on 19 April, paving the way for flights to Tasmania.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a deal in November to re-establish a travel link between Tasmania and New Zealand for the first time since 1996.
The agreement, which was intended to start in January, will include 130 direct flights from Hobart each year, with three departing per week in warmer months, and two in winter.
Air New Zealand’s chief executive, Greg Foran, said, “It’s really exciting to be launching a new route alongside reopening our other Australian ports after a year of being predominantly a domestic airline.
“Hobart offers a range of experiences that differ from the rest of Australia and there is much more to see beyond the city. It has a dynamic art and culture scene, and its stunning walks and landscapes are world-renowned.”
In February, Australian Aviation reported how Hobart Airport was now almost ready to receive international flights after it upgraded to its biosecurity and customs procedures.
The plan to restart travel between Tasmania and Australia will reportedly cost the federal government $50 million, while state governments will contribute $10 million for structural upgrades.
They will mark the first regular flights since 1996, when Air New Zealand pulled the route due to its viability.
Before coronavirus hit, documents released to Hobart MPs pre-COVID predicted restarting the route could generate more than $100 million in tourism.
PM Ardern said last week the decision to launch quarantine-free travel was made because the risk of transmission was low and the Queensland outbreak had been contained.
“Our health response now gives us an opportunity to commit with loved ones again as we start a new chapter in our recovery,” she said.
However, the new arrangement will allow New Zealand to pause or suspend the bubble if any outbreaks occur in Australia.
“While we absolutely wish to encourage family and friends to reunite and visitors to come and enjoy the hospitality New Zealand is ready and waiting to offer, those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so under the guidance of flyer beware,” said PM Ardern. “People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an 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.
“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.”
Last month, Australia paved the way for the trans-Tasman bubble by amending its Biosecurity Act, which gives it the legal right to ask all returning residents to quarantine for 14 days.
“Australia is ready for any potential travel bubble with New Zealand,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt. “We’re prepared. We understand New Zealand has to go through its processes, and we’re deeply respectful of those, but we are ready when they are.”
Fly into Spring with Australian Aviation’s latest print edition. Starting from $49.95 a year, you can read comprehensive coverage on all sectors of the industry to keep you in the loop. Get your hands on the subscription today. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.