Ardern: Aussies can fly quarantine-free to NZ from April 18

Prime Minister Scott Morrison could be among some of the first Australians to travel to New Zealand quarantine-free when the Trans Tasman bubble begins in just under two weeks.

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From 11.59pm April 18 Wellington time (9.59pm AEST), Australians will be able to fly into New Zealand with no quarantine for the first time in more than a year, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday.


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Australia’s border has been mostly open to New Zealanders since October, with a few short suspensions when there were small coronavirus outbreaks in Auckland.

But until today’s announcement, New Zealand had delayed returning the favour due to more frequent COVID-19 clusters across Australia.

Morrison and Ardern spoke on Monday night ahead of the bubble announcement to discuss his upcoming trip to New Zealand, according to the NZ Prime Minister.

“The first thing we talked about was when we could have those face-to-face meetings. Dates are being discussed. I expect it will be relatively soon,” Ardern said.

“I’ll be looking to use the opportunity to take Prime Minister Morrison to an area that has previously enjoyed high levels of international visitors and that we’ll want to put back on the world stage.”The New Zealand government is expecting 80 per cent of the volume of pre-pandemic Australian travellers to return by 2022. In 2019, 40 per cent of all air arrivals to New Zealand were Australian, bringing in $NZ 2 billion ($1.8 billion) to the NZ economy.

“This is an exciting day. The trans-Tasman bubble represents the start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery one that people have worked so hard for, and this makes New Zealand and Australia relatively unique,” said Ardern.

Ardern said specific flights into Australia could still be suspended if there were local outbreaks and conceded both countries retained the right to close borders at short notice.

“For instance, if a case is found that is quite clearly linked to a border worker in a quarantine facility and is well contained, you’d likely see travel continue in the same way as you would see life continued if that happened here in New Zealand,” she said.

“If, however, the case was found that was not clearly linked to the border and the state responded by a short lockdown to identify more information, we’d likely pause flights from that state in the same way we would stop travel into and out of a region in New Zealand.”

“And if we saw multiple cases of unknown origin we would likely suspend flights for a set period of time.”

Australians flying into New Zealand will be booked on a “green zone flight”, which means there will be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days, the NZ Prime Minister explained.

“They will also be flown by crew who have not flown on any high-risk routes for a set period of time. Passengers will need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand [and] they won’t be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms,” she said.

Passengers will need to wear a mask while flying, must download the NZ COVID Tracer app for use in New Zealand and will be kept separate in New Zealand airports from passengers from other countries who are headed into hotel quarantine.

“We will also be undertaking random temperature checks of those arriving as an extra precaution,” she said.

Zealand unless

“We are flagging today it is something potentially we may ask for depending on the health situation within Queensland at the time. We make that final call next Wednesday,” she said.

Ardern said her government urged travellers to beware that there would be no financial support for New Zealander nationals who may become stranded in Australia if a border were to close.

“Of course while both Australia and New Zealand work very, very hard to prevent any outbreaks on either side, we are asking travellers to just simply prepare in case there is an outbreak that may cause a pause or a suspension in travel,” she said.

Aviation, Tourism industries relieved

Australian Airports Association Chief Executive James Goodwin said Tuesday’s announcement was long-awaited good news for his industry and would boost confidence of potential travellers.

“We can expect to see a lot of emotional scenes at our airports in two weeks’ time with many families and friends reunited after not seeing each other for more than a year,” Mr Goodwin said.

Airlines had already boosted capacity for flights to New Zealand, with fares falling a result. Prior to the bubble announcement, Qantas offered only a few flights per week, with return trips to Auckland from Sydney costing as much as $1173.

In the wake of Ardern’s announcement, that has now increased to several flights per day, with prices dropping to about $670 return for flights in late April.

Air New Zealand is offering flights for about $580 return from Sydney to Auckland. The NZ carrier has also announced a substantial increase in flights starting on April 19, with between one and three daily flights between Melbourne and Auckland, and between three and five flights per day from Sydney to Auckland.

In addition, the airline will resume direct flights to Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Qantas meanwhile says it will operate up to 122 return flights per week on the Tasman across 15 routes starting in April 19 – the equivalent of 83 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity.

However Virgin Australia will not resume flights to New Zealand until October 31, with the exception of a limited number of services to Queenstown from September 18.

A Virgin spokesman said the airline remained committed to returning to New Zealand when the travel market fully recovered but would not do so in the interim because of “evolving border requirements which add complexity to our business” while it was still bringing back its domestic operations.

Tourism New Zealand Interim Chief Executive Rene de Monchy said reopening borders would provide a boost to the local industry but the number of travellers would still likely lag pre-pandemic levels.

“We aren’t expecting Australian visitor numbers to return to previous levels for some time and expect the first to travel will be those reconnecting with family and friends,” said de Monchy.

“Tourism New Zealand has been working hard to keep Aotearoa top of mind for Australian visitors over the last year. We will need to work even harder to convert this into bookings.”

– With Craig Platt, Mathew Dunckley and Patrick Hatch

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