The chief executive of Air New Zealand, Greg Foran, has said he is confident international travel will resume early next year but thinks the trans-Tasman bubble will likely change.
In an interview with The Australian, Foran said he is excited to open up to key markets again, such as North America and China, which his airline has continued to serve.
He added the latest Delta outbreak would plunge Australia into the same category as other countries when it comes to how New Zealand operates travel.
“I do think that we [will] open up to Australia but in all likelihood, we may end up operating Australia like we do with many countries when we feel travel is safe,” he said.
With international countries, the prerequisites of entering New Zealand are providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and once arrived, 14 days of managed isolation is mandatory.
“A bubble makes it quite a seamless experience for a customer. You’re not having to do a pre-departure test. You’re not having to prove you’ve been vaccinated,” Foran added.
Even if the trans-Tasman bubble does reopen, he said he imagines “you’re probably going to have to be vaccinated”.
“You’re probably going to have to do a pre-departure test. You’re probably going to have to do a test on the way home and you’re probably going to have to do a test when you arrive back in the country,” Foran said.
From when the pandemic escalated in March 2020, countries have continuously entered into ‘bubble’ agreements – requiring no quarantine – with neighbouring nations to maintain travel connections.
The trans-Tasman bubble opened in April this year when both countries were essentially living COVID-19 free, but it was suspended late July when Australia reported its latest outbreak.
On Thursday last week, Qantas said flights between the two countries should begin mid-December “in line with the anticipated restart of the trans-Tasman travel bubble”, due to the rise in vaccinations.
But, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday after announcing that Auckland would remain in lockdown for another two weeks that “a bubble right now is just not a goer”.
Today, New Zealand reported 53 new cases, totalling the nation’s outbreak to 562, mostly from Auckland and some in Wellington.
She added the government would still review the arrangement at the end of September as “a lot of people are hanging on those decisions for their long-term plans”.
Air New Zealand signalled earlier in August the bubble pause would deeply impact the company’s 2022 fiscal year financial results.
Foran said despite the trans-Tasman bubble’s uncertainty, he expected international travel to resume early 2022 after flying solely cargo for over a year.
“We just fly cargo but they are operated by our 787 Dreamliners so it’s actually very easy for us to open those up to passenger flights,” Foran said.
PM Ardern said earlier in August the nation’s borders will remain closed until at least the end of the year.
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