Just 12 Aussies will be allowed on some Air New Zealand repatriation flights to Australia in September.
The ultra-low allocation is likely a result of Australia’s small arrival caps, which are set to lower again as COVID positive residents take up hotel rooms usually allocated for international arrivals.
Air New Zealand’s CEO made the revelation alongside announcing that 10 new flights across the Tasman this month sold out in under two hours.
“We are committed to getting as many people home as we can, even if it means operating near-empty flights,” said Greg Foran. “Our heart goes out to those customers who have missed out.”
The trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries is currently suspended for two months, though that is likely to be extended due to rising COVID infections in both countries.
In July, Australia’s national cabinet announced that the country’s arrival caps would reduce from 6,070 passengers a week to just 3,035. The news led to flights between London and Sydney selling for more than $43,000.
To compensate, the federal government promised to fund more Qantas 787 repatriation flights and announced South Australia would host the two-week trial of home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals into the country.
Earlier this week, Australian Aviation reported how Foran said he was confident international travel would resume early next year to and from New Zealand but thought the trans-Tasman bubble with Australia would change.
“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,” he said.
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”.