Travellers in Australia got the green light Tuesday (6 April) to travel to New Zealand after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern announced two-way quarantine-free travel will commence on 19 April. It will be the first border opening since free-flow travel was stopped just over a year ago in New Zealand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most Australian states have opened their borders to New Zealanders since last October but New Zealand has delayed returning the favour due to sporadic outbreaks in some Australian cities.
Carriers in both countries appeared prepared for the announcement as Air New Zealand has already increased schedule in its booking system from Monday 19 April. It has 23 return services between Auckland and Sydney that week, as opposed to just four return flights this current week.
Air New Zealand has also listed the planes it plans to fly on the Auckland to Sydney route. The airline runs 787 Dreamliners across the Tasman, but has publicly said it has retrained staff on its A320 and A321 planes to run Tasman services. The first A321 flight gets underway on 19 April. The first direct flights from Wellington and Christchurch to Sydney are also loaded in its system from 19 April. The first direct flight from Queenstown to Sydney resumes a day later. Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says the airline is incredibly excited to have the border reopen to Australia. “This is terrific news. I know Kiwis and Australians have been wanting to reconnect with whānau and friends for a year now and we’re incredibly excited to be playing a part in those reunions. I’ll certainly be digging out my passport for the first time since I joined the airline to head across the ditch to see my family and I’m especially looking forward to meeting some of my grandchildren for the first time.”
Adern said the health situation in both countries “gives us the ability to start a new chapter” in travel as the risk of transmission is low and “quarantine-free travel safe to commence”. The prime minister said travel could be disrupted and people stranded if outbreaks occurred as they have recently in Brisbane. She said if outbreaks happened in Australia for example, then New Zealand would treat the affected area as essentially a part of New Zealand and would either continue flying, pause flying, or suspend the bubble depending on the severity of the outbreak. Adern said New Zealand was performing health audits of the country’s airports and said travellers from Australia will arrive in so-called “green lanes” that will separate those travellers from any others. Flyers from Australia must wear a mask when on the plane and New Zealand will take random temperature checks as well.
Ardern warned people to be prepared to have their travel plans changed at short notice, including landing and going into hotel quarantine. “Those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so under the guidance of flyer beware,” she said. “People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak.”
Ardern said figures from 2019 showed about 40 percent of tourism arrivals were from Australia. “They were putting back into our economy over $2 billion worth of spending…the estimates are by the beginning of 2022 we might get to 80 percent of where we were pre-Covid when it comes to Australian travellers. What I wouldn’t be surprised we see is that early travellers will likely be those who are travelling to see family and friends. We of course want to encourage people straight off the bat to come whenever they are ready because we are here and ready to welcome them.” Asked why Australians should come to New Zealand, Ardern said: “We are safe and we cannot underestimate how important that is in this Covid-19 world. We are a safe place to bring your family to come and visit.”