Air New Zealand will maintain the quarantine-free suspension with Australia amid the eight-week extension of the travel bubble ban, announced on Friday.
The 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 will only “operate a limited number of quarantine flights” between the nations to “get people home”, according to the press release.
Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said the airline would continue to operate the necessary repatriation schedule to reconnect customers with friends and family.
“We understand this continues to be a very distressing time for people trying to get home,” she said.
“We’re committed to doing everything we can to get customers back to where they need to be as safely and quickly as possible.”
The news comes as New Zealand has managed to curb daily COVID-19 infections, reporting a significant drop to 11 today, following a month of cases that reached over 1,000.
The Australian government provided Air New Zealand with a limited number of isolation spaces to return people back home.
Quarantine flight tickets will be available to purchase from 10am New Zealand time on Monday, 20 September for customers traveling back to Australia.
When customers book, they will receive a ‘MIQ’ – managed isolation – room allocation to upkeep strict social distancing.
For New Zealanders returning home, customers will secure MIQ spaces made available from the New Zealand government.
Those flights will be available to book at 9am New Zealand time on Monday, 20 September.
Australia has continued to report high daily case numbers – especially within NSW and Victoria – since the Delta outbreak began in late June.
“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.
“This has changed significantly leading to our decision to suspend quarantine-free travel for a further eight weeks.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many nations have created quarantine-free travel between low-risk neighbouring countries to maintain tourism.
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.
In August, Air New Zealand said it expected a higher 2022 fiscal year loss of NZ$530 million, up almost NZ$1 million from previous forecasts as the bubble remains disrupted.