Air New Zealand has added an additional 25 ‘red’ quarantine flights from Australia in January, as New Zealand gives no hint when it might lift the pause on the trans-Tasman bubble.
While Australia is due to hit its 80 per cent vaccination target in November, which will see Australians once again allowed to travel overseas, the New Zealand government is yet to announce if or when it will reinstate the quarantine-free travel bubble between the two neighbouring countries, which it first suspended in June.
The Australian government has said it is in discussion with New Zealand and other countries in order to introduce quarantine-free travel bubbles, “when it is safe to do so”.
Last month, the New Zealand government announced that it would extend the travel ban between Australia and New Zealand for a further eight weeks, to 19 November.
Even so, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said it would be “extremely unlikely” that New Zealand would reopen its border to Australia in November, due to its ongoing Delta outbreak in Sydney and Melbourne.
Robertson said the country would keep its eyes on the vaccination rates across Australia and within the states over the next eight weeks.
It also follows news that New Zealand has abandoned its COVID-19 elimination strategy and is set to move the country out of lockdown in stages, based on vaccine targets, similar to Australia.
The airline stated customers booking their seat on a red flight into New Zealand must remember to book their spot in a government-managed isolation quarantine (MIQ) facility prior to booking their flight.
Customers will have 48 hours to book their flights after securing an MIQ room.
The airline still has ‘green’ quarantine-free flights available throughout December and January in light of the possible resumption of the trans-Tasman bubble come 19 November.
However, ‘green’ flights will be cancelled should quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand continue to be paused.
It comes just two weeks after the carrier added a further 31 new ‘red’ flights from Australia to New Zealand for December, in anticipation that the trans-Tasman bubble remains paused until after Christmas.
Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said Air New Zealand will continue to operate flights to bring New Zealanders home for the holidays.
“We understand this continues to be a very distressing time for people trying to get home. We’re committed to doing everything we can to get customers back to where they need to be as safely and quickly as possible.
“There are plenty of seats available so we are confident that if customers secure an MIQ space, they will be able to book onto one of our red flights.
“As we head toward Christmas and summer holidays we are looking forward to reconnecting customers with their loved ones in Aotearoa.”
Last month, Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said while the trans-Tasman bubble may return, it will likely look a little different to before, given the Delta outbreak.
“I do think that we [will] open up to Australia but in all likelihood, we may end up operating to Australia like we do with many countries when we feel travel is safe,” he said.
Currently, the prerequisites for entering New Zealand from international countries include providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and once arrived, spending 14 days in managed isolation.
However, when the trans-Tasman bubble eventually 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.