The travel bubble in a way, again, again again, between New Zealand and Australia is back again. The Australian Government has lifted its pause on quarantined flights from New Zealand are resuming. New this is welcome news for stranded airlines and their passengers.
Australia initially banned quarantine travel from New Zealand in late January following a small COVID-19 explosion in Auckland. But after a meeting with New Zealand public health officials on Saturday, the Australian Government said “green zone” flights could resume between New Zealand and Australia from 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 21.
“Green Zone” flights resume, on one condition
What is a green zone flight? It refers to areas created at airports in Australia and New Zealand to separate passengers arriving on a flight whose passengers can pass quarantine and those who cannot. Currently, only a select number of flights from New Zealand qualify as green zone flights. Everyone else, on a red zone flight, must enter into a 14-day quarantine regime, usually in a government-mandated hotel.
There is a condition that these green zone flights resume. All passengers traveling from New Zealand on a Green Zone flight who have been to Auckland for any period (excluding transit at Auckland Airport) during the past 14 days will be required to provide proof during check-in of a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours of the scheduled flight departure. The Australian Government also stated that the routine pre-departure and arrival show would continue.
Only three airlines are operating services across the Tasman Sea
Air New Zealand is currently making the bulk of flights between New Zealand and Australia. The airline is generally operating three flights a week to Brisbane and four or five services a week to Sydney. These flights are a mix of green zone and red zone services. Every New Zealand Air flight to Melbourne is not carrying passengers right now. Melbourne Airport has once again temporarily stopped receiving international passengers due to ongoing quarantine management problems there.
Australian airline Qantas is running about three services a week between Auckland and Sydney using A330-300 aircraft. Jetstar is operating a weekly service between Auckland and Sydney. The three-hour, forty-minute flight takes place every Tuesday using A320-200 aircraft.
Since the end of last year, the travel bubble between New Zealand has operated on a single basis. Most Kiwis were able to enter Australia and bypass quarantine requirements. However, New Zealand has so far refused to return the favor. That will change next month when the long-awaited two-way travel bubble begins.
A two-way travel bubble will continue in March
If this goes ahead, it will prove a welcome boost for the three airlines currently operating their services without interruption across the Tasman Sea.
In 2019, Australian Government Statistics reveal 7,845,243 passengers flew between New Zealand and Australia, or vice versa, that year. Multiple airlines, including Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, LATAM, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and China Airlines, delivered 47,555 flights across Tasman that year.
2020 was being formed to be another bumper year for those airlines. But COVID-19 put an end to that. Airline traffic and passenger traffic on routes between Australia and New Zealand took place in a handful of 2019 levels. The long-awaited two-way travel bubble will go a long way to restart passenger traffic beyond Tasman sea again. The airlines and their passengers will hope the deal is held together, despite the inevitable impending small COVID explosion.
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