Arden reveals date for Aus-NZ travel bubble


Jacinda Ardern has confirmed when the trans-Tasman bubble allowing unrestricted travel between Australian and New Zealand borders will begin.

The New Zealand Prime Minister said it would start at 11.59pm on Sunday April 18.

But while quarantine-free travel to Australia and vice versa will start in a fortnight, she said it will not be what it was pre-COVID.

"While we absolutely wish to encourage family and friends to reunite and visitors to come and enjoy the hospitality New Zealand is ready and waiting to offer, those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so you were the guidance of flyer beware," she said.

"People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak."

Air New Zealand is already offering daily flights between Auckland and Sydney.

The airline is also selling flights between Auckland and Melbourne from Friday April 9.

New Zealand's Cabinet met and signed off on the starting date.

Since October last year, travellers from NZ have been allowed to enter Australia without quarantining except for during a few short periods.

In that time over 32,000 travellers have landed in Australia, the majority of them landing in Sydney.

The announcement will be a boon to Australian ski enthusiasts looking to travel to NZ's South Island during the winter months, but government sources speculated that the security provided by the two-way bubble would also encourage plenty of Kiwis looking to head to Australia for a bit of sunshine.


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Picture: Getty
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Picture: Getty

NZ Airports Association Chief Exective Kevin Ward told New Zealand media any outbreak could be managed with a state-by-state approach and they are keen to get quarantine-free travel going with Australia and the Cook Islands.

It's understood a bubble with the Cook Islands could begin in May.

"They have been ready for some time to meet requirements for red and green traveller separation and health requirements such as cleaning and signage, and I'm confident they will achieve any final sign-offs from the authorities in short order,'' he said.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Air New Zealand plans to run more flights from Auckland to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from April 12 to April 18.

The airline will increase flights from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown to all nine Australian ports from April 19 to October 30.

Auckland to Hobart flights will not be available for sale until a two-way safe travel zone has been confirmed.

Qantas and Jetstar have stated they will offer Frequent Flyers uncapped Classic Flight Reward seats for the first three days of travel when the two-way trans-Tasman bubble opens.

Once the start date is confirmed, thousands of seats across all cabins will be available to be booked as Classic Flight Rewards over the 72-hour travel period.

Customers can also pay for these seats.

Qantas Frequent Flyer will also add 50 per cent more Classic Reward seats on Qantas' trans-Tasman flights for the remainder of the year.

Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth said the initiative would reward the program's Australian and New Zealand members who have continued to build their points balance during the pandemic.

"Our members have been stockpiling points during COVID for exactly these opportunities and we want to help make it easier to get on one of the first international flights," Ms Wirth said.

"That's why every seat on every Qantas and Jetstar flight for the first three days of the travel bubble opening will be Classic Flight Rewards.

"For the remainder of the year, there will also be more reward seats available including during peak times like Christmas and school holidays on Qantas' trans-Tasman flights.

"Eighty per cent of Qantas Frequent Flyers have said they want to use the points they have been stockpiling on travel. This is just one example of how we'll be making it easier for members to get closer to their next dream trip as borders reopen."

While many travellers were excited by the announcement, the bubble comes as the UK mulls removing its travel bans as early as the middle of May.

In contrast to Australia's slow and problem-riddled vaccination program, the UK's rapid rollout has already seen a 60 per cent drop in symptomatic cases and an 80 per cent fall in hospital admissions.

Rodger Cook, General Manager of Global Security Services for World Travel Protection, told News Corp that when the proposed trans-Tasman bubble opens, Australians will need to consider different risks involved.

"For example, if the travel bubble closes suddenly at any stage, will Australians then need to undergo the lengthy and expensive quarantine process on the return trip?," he said.

"Or will the traveller even be able to make their way home in a timely manner with the limitations we've been seeing on international arrivals to Australia during the pandemic?

"Another important factor to consider is if the international airports at both Australian and New Zealand ends will be segregated from other international arrivals to decrease the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

"This is incredibly important for risk mitigation and travellers should be aware of this before they make any travel plans."

Mr Cook said the proposed bubble is important as many companies have physical operations on both sides of the Tasman.

"Particularly in service industries, collaboration and personal connection are an important ingredient of a successful operation," he said.

"However, due to the potential risks mentioned, we expect that businesses will be very cautious with a travel bubble as the risk of a border closure is real; organisations are still likely to limit travel to urgent or essential only."