Direct flights between Auckland and Hobart will restart for the first time since 1996 on Thursday.
The Air New Zealand A321-271NX, ZK-NNA msn 08496, will depart Auckland at 9am as flight NZ197 and land in Hobart at 11am. The return flight will depart an hour and a half later.
It comes after the trans-Tasman bubble opened on Monday, paving the way for quarantine-free flights between the two countries.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a deal in November to re-establish a travel link between Tasmania and New Zealand for the first time in a generation.
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.
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Before coronavirus hit, documents released to Hobart MPs pre-COVID predicted restarting the route could generate more than $100 million in tourism.
The two-way arrangement officially opened on 18 April at 11:59pm and on Monday Air New Zealand operated 30 flights, and Qantas and Jetstar 29.
Moving forward, Qantas and Jetstar will operate 83 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity to New Zealand, and also start two new routes from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast.
In total, the Qantas Group revealed will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes, or 52,000 seats each week. It has been operating at just 3 per cent pre-COVID capacity during the current one-way arrangement.
A new daily service from the Gold Coast to Auckland has also started, marking Qantas’ first-ever international flights from the Queensland airport.
A second new route, Cairns-Auckland, will also launch in time for the June long weekend, operating three days per week. Flights will initially operate for nine weeks until late July, and Qantas said it could potentially add more flights beyond this period depending on demand.
The business will operate trans-Tasman services using a mix of 737s and A330s.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand is gearing up to welcome more than 5,000 passengers today between the two countries.
On Tuesday, the trans-Tasman bubble faced its first major test after a border worker at Auckland Airport tested positive for COVID. However, as of Wednesday night, no new cases of community transmission has been recorded, with 25 close contacts identified to date, including 17 airport workers.
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