Quarantine-free travel between both Australia and New Zealand restarted today in one of the most significant moments for the aviation industry since the start of the pandemic.
The Jetstar A320-232, VH-VFU msn 5814, opened the bubble after it departed Sydney at 7:39am as flight JQ201, bound for Auckland. It was scheduled to depart at 6:15am but was delayed until 7:39am.
The two-way arrangement officially opened on 18 April at 11:59pm and on Monday Air New Zealand will operate 30 flights, and Qantas and Jetstar 29.
Speaking from Sydney Airport, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said quarantine free travel had been 400 days in the making.
“Reopening these flights across the Tasman is a very important milestone in the recovery from the pandemic for Australia and New Zealand but also aviation and tourism,” said Joyce.
“The opening of the two-way bubble is fantastic for the family and friends who are reuniting after so long apart and for the many jobs which are so heavily dependent on tourism. It means we’ll be able to get more planes back in the sky and more of our people back to work.
“New Zealand was Australia’s second biggest source of international visitors before the pandemic. Today, it’s about to go straight to number one.
“We’ve seen strong demand since the bubble was announced, with tens of thousands of bookings made in the first few days. We’ve also added more flights to Queenstown to meet expected demand during the peak ski season.”
Qantas and Jetstar will operate 83 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity to New Zealand now the bubble has launched, 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 will also start when the bubble opens, 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.
Chief executive Greg Foran said, “Monday will go down in history as one of the most monumental days for Air New Zealand and a real turning point for the airline. It’s day one of our revival.
“We estimate that three-quarters of our passengers crossing the Ditch will be family and friends reuniting with loved ones. We’re humbled to be part of these reunions and reconnecting people who have missed out on so much over the last year.”
Its 30 daily flights are set to grow to more than 300 per week operating from Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney into Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
A one-way ‘travel bubble’ first opened in October 2020 allowing Kiwis to enter Australia without quarantine, but not the other way around.
Australian Aviation’s Kiwi digital director, Blair Dods, was on one of the first flights across the Tasman.
The Air New Zealand 787-9, ZKNZQ msn 39296, departed Auckland at 9am as flight NZ103 and is scheduled to land in Sydney at 10:20am local time. Embedded within this article are photos of his trip.
The first flight from Melbourne was an A330-202, VH-EBQ msn 1198, which departed at 8:10am as flight QF-151 and is due to land at Auckland at 1:18pm local time; and the first flight from Brisbane to Auckland is due to depart at 9:35am as flight QF-119.
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.
Those flying between the two countries will be on a ‘green zone flight’. That means that there will be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia or New Zealand in the last 14 days. They will also be flown by crew who have not flown on any higher risk routes for a set period of time.
Passengers will need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand, and they won’t be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms. When they fly, they will be required to wear a mask on the flight and will also be asked to download and use the New Zealand COVID trace app.
On arrival, passengers will be taken through ‘green zones’ at the airport, meaning there’ll be no contact with those who are arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine facilities.
Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewoods said, “Our terminal separation came into effect today, with all arriving passengers needing to go into managed isolation now being processed in Zone B, our fully separated mini arrivals processing area.
“This allows us a full three days for the final preparations along the safe arrivals path, including the reopening of the duty-free store in arrivals, which has been behind hoardings since the borders restrictions took effect last year.”
Announcing the opening of the bubble two weeks’ ago, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country was committed to the arrangement but would “proceed with caution”.
“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.
“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.”