Auckland Airport has reported a 14.8 per cent drop in passengers in March 2022 from March 2021, the decrease driven by falling domestic passenger numbers amid Omicron outbreak fears.
A total of 426,937 passengers passed through Auckland in March this year, as opposed to the 500,944 travellers that did so one year earlier.
Despite a 331 per cent increase in international passengers over the same period, in light of easing international travel restrictions, domestic passengers passing through Auckland, the largest airport in the country, fell by 34.5 per cent year-on-year.
While at that time, strict international border rules were in place, New Zealand had no domestic travel restrictions in place in March 2021.
The airport noted that an Omicron outbreak throughout the nation in February and March impacted on its domestic passenger numbers and that numbers were increasing steadily by the last week of March.
Meanwhile, international passenger numbers have seen a strong rebound, following the removal of quarantine requirements for, at that time, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.
From 27 February, fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens and residents were free to return to the country from Australia without entering a two-week hotel quarantine, while two weeks later, on 13 March, they were able to return from anywhere else in the world.
As such, Auckland reported a 172 per cent increase in international passengers from February to March, to 117,292 travellers.
This still only represented about 12 per cent of pre-COVID international travel numbers, Auckland Airport said, however numbers continue to improve.
The airport said that passenger demand on short-haul international routes in March recovered to 15.1 per cent of pre-COVID levels, while long-haul remains at 8.8 per cent of 2019 levels.
Figures are likely to improve again throughout April and May as the Omicron surge fades and more international travellers are welcomed to New Zealand.
The news comes after the country finally lifted border restrictions and quarantine requirements for Australians for the first time since the trans-Tasman bubble was paused in July.
As of 11:59pm on Tuesday, 12 April, Australians citizens and residents from anywhere in the world are now once again free to enter the country without entering government-mandated managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).
Instead, fully vaccinated Aussies must simply present either a negative PCR COVID-19 test within 48 hours of departing for New Zealand, or a supervised rapid antigen test (RAT) within 24 hours.
Upon arrival in New Zealand, travellers will be provided an additional two RATs to be taken on day 0/1 and 5/6 of their travel.
Two weeks later, on 1 May, fully vaccinated international tourists were once again also welcome to enter, under the same testing requirements.