Air New Zealand’s quarantine flights to Australia were sold out within three minutes after going live on Monday morning, as citizens rush to get home during the suspension period.
Tickets were available to purchase at 10am New Zealand time for customers travelling back to Australia, but the government only provided a very limited number of seats.
“Because of the MIQ [managed isolation facilities] constraints in Australia, we were only allocated a total of 385 seats to Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne between 25 September and 30 October,” said Air NZ’s chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty.
“On some flights, as little as 10 seats were available.”
Geraghty said Air New Zealand is committed to getting people back home despite the limited spaces.
Australian Aviation reported late last week the airline would maintain the quarantine-free suspension with Australia amid the eight-week extension of the travel bubble ban.
Current flights from New Zealand to Australia will be cancelled from 25 September to 30 November as COVID-19 cases in Australia continue to skyrocket.
The Auckland-based carrier is in conversation with the Australian government to allow for additional seat allocations.
“If more space does open up, customers will be able to book through our website,” said Geraghty.
Although tickets to Australia were quickly snatched up, some spots are still available for customers returning to New Zealand, the airline said.
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Geraghty said there was an “initial spike” for bookings to New Zealand, but encourages customers to book quickly to avoid missing out during the extension.
New Zealand’s Delta outbreak spiralled over the last few months – reaching over 1,000 cases in total – but the nation has been able to quickly curb the spread.
After slamming shut the trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia, and entering into tough lockdowns, the nation has now been able to report minimal daily COVID-19 infections.
New Zealand reported 22 new cases on Monday, as all regions outside of Auckland enjoy easing lockdown restrictions.
Meanwhile, Australia has continued to report high daily case numbers – especially within NSW and Victoria – since the Delta outbreak began in late June.
On Monday, NSW reported 935 new infections, while Victoria saw 567 new COVID cases.
“When quarantine-free travel was established with Australia, both our countries had very few recent cases of COVID-19 community transmission and a very similar elimination strategy,” said NZ’s COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins when the ban was extended.
“This has changed significantly leading to our decision to suspend quarantine-free travel for a further eight weeks.”
The trans-Tasman bubble was put in place early on, but has suffered a major blow since this latest outbreak, which has severely impacted Air New Zealand’s return to profitability.
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