Air New Zealand received over 17,000 bookings for international flights within one day of the New Zealand government announcing new rules for international travel.
Last week, it was announced that fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens will be able to travel to Australia and return home without entering a two-week quarantine from 16 January and return from anywhere else in the world from 13 February.
The New Zealand government has also said fully vaccinated foreign travellers will be welcome from 30 April.
Under the new rules, all travellers will be required to take a COVID test on arrival and self-isolate for seven days before entering the community. Pre-flight testing will also be required prior to departing.
According to a report by the NZ Herald, within one day of the announcement, Air New Zealand had already accepted 17,000 new bookings for overseas travel, and noted particular demand for trans-Tasman services.
Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said she was “absolutely delighted” by the reopening announcement, and the strong demand seen for overseas flights.
“We’ve been waiting for such a long period of time for the certainty that was given, albeit we appreciate there are some requirements, but on the whole we’re incredibly excited with the fact that we can get Kiwis moving again,” she said.
“There’s obviously some disappointed people because they’d love to reunite with family and friends for Christmas or ahead of Christmas, but the fact that they’ve now got some certainty and are able to book has been a really positive scenario.”
According to the report, Air New Zealand is yet to lock in its schedule to Australia come 16 January, however Geraghty said there would be “plenty of capacity.
“We have crews and the right amount of resources available for the schedule. And then beyond January as things start to ramp up further, then we will probably look to bring some further resource back in, depending upon how demand goes,” she said.
The airline is also already looking towards reinstating part of its international schedule, as Kiwis prepare to jet set across the world once again from 13 February.
According to Geraghty, Air New Zealand has already seen strong demand on routes to Los Angeles, Fiji and Hawaii.
“We do expect that demand will continue to grow over the coming days and weeks across the network – we know that Kiwis have some favourite holiday destinations such as Fiji and Honolulu.
“The team are working to get some flights into the system, particularly into Fiji to help with that demand that we anticipate will be coming through,” Geraghty said.
It comes after Air New Zealand was forced to cancel over 1,000 flights between Australia and New Zealand through to 31 December, as hopes were dashed for a resumption of the trans-Tasman bubble by Christmas.
The airline said that the slew of cancellations, which will affect in excess of 20,000 passengers in total, were necessary due to “uncertainty” over the resumption of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel.
New Zealand first announced the suspension of its quarantine-free travel agreement with Australia in July, which has since been extended. The trans-Tasman bubble was first implemented in April.
“Now, due to recent statements by the New Zealand government that quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand is unlikely to recommence this year, we’ve had to make the difficult decision to change our schedule,” said Geraghty at the time.
“This will be particularly tough news for families and friends who were hoping to catch up over Christmas.
“I appreciate how difficult this news will be, but our hands are tied until border restrictions ease, and we receive further clarity from the New Zealand government.”