New Zealand

Tasman travel bubble update: Is November the month we’ve waited for?

Air New Zealand has operated its first flight as part of the Safe Travel Zone with New South Wales, reuniting families separated by the Tasman Sea due to coronavirus restrictions that began in March 2020.

Air New Zealand, Jetstar and Qantas have begun operating quarantine-free flights from New Zealand to New South Wales and the Northern Territory, meaning passengers won’t have to isolate for 14 days on arrival.

Since March, borders have been closed to all except Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members of citizens and residents. Non-citizens and non-residents have had to apply for an exemption to be able to enter the country.

Now New Zealand passengers will be able to travel to New South Wales without the requirement for quarantine on arrival but will be required to complete a health declaration stating they have been in New Zealand the preceding 14 days. Health screening will also take place on arrival in Sydney.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says in order for the airline to continue to carry passengers safely and identify passengers with travel not originating in New Zealand, it has introduced what’s known as ‘quarantine’ and ‘quarantine-free’ flights.

“The quarantine-free flights will be for travellers originating from New Zealand who are flying from Auckland to Sydney and are not required to quarantine on arrival in Australia. Quarantine flights will be open to passengers who do not meet the Safe Travel Zone criteria and will be required to quarantine on arrival in Australia.

The arrangement does not work both ways with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters telling Australia’s Nine News the one-way agreement won’t be expanded until “when we know it is safe to”.

But he offered hope that Australians might soon be able to visit New Zealand. He said “I think in Australia’s case, we are only a few days away to be able to say certain states are on top of (the virus) so to speak.”

Flight NZ103 was the first quarantine-free flight to depart Auckland.

“It’s been a huge undertaking to ensure we are ready for this one-way arrangement. We know passengers onboard may have been waiting a long time to get back to New South Wales. Around 90 percent of those travelling on tomorrow’s flight are booked to travel one-way.”

Air New Zealand is currently operating eight return flights between Auckland and Sydney per week and will look to operate two quarantine flights per week, while the remaining flights will be quarantine-free.

Between 16 October and 24 October, the airline will operate three quarantine flights – on 17 October, 22 October and 24 October and all other flights will be quarantine-free. On 22 October the airline will operate both a quarantine-free and a quarantine flight. The airline is working through flights from 25 October.

Passengers planning to travel interstate beyond New South Wales will need to ensure they have checked state and territory travel restrictions and have the appropriate exemptions/approvals to travel as these continue to change.

This Safe Travel Zone is a one-way arrangement and those returning to New Zealand will still need to quarantine for 14 days upon return, provide payment for quarantine and register their managed isolation accommodation requirements via the New Zealand Government website.

Due to Australian State restrictions, fares beyond Sydney to destinations within Australia are not available to be booked via Air New Zealand.

Quarantine flights will not be able to be booked by people beginning their journey in New Zealand.

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