Air New Zealand Moves To More Year-Round Australian Services

Air New Zealand is up-gauging seasonal services to three premier Queensland leisure destinations to year-round services. Under an agreement with the Queensland Government, the Auckland-based airline is locking in flights to Cairns, Sunshine Coast, and Gold Coast until May 2022.

Air New Zealand will operate seasonal services to Cairns, Sunshine Coast, and Gold Coast year-round. Photo: Sunshine Coast Airport

Three Queensland cities get year-round Air New Zealand flights

In a stroke of bad timing, New Zealand paused quarantine-free flights from Queensland when it suspended the two-way travel corridor with Australia in late June. But the omens are good for flights to resume soon.

Air New Zealand normally flies between Auckland (AKL) and Cairns (CNS) and Auckland and Sunshine Coast (MCY) on a seasonal basis. The winter flights allow chilly Kiwis the chance to get some warm sand between their toes. The Queensland Government has now secured full-time flights to these cities until May next year.

And while Air New Zealand has long maintained a year-round presence at Gold Coast Airport (OOL), they’ve never flown the Christchurch (CHC) to Gold Coast route. That’s also now on the cards through to next May.

“Queensland has long been a popular destination for Kiwis looking for a little winter sunshine, and Air New Zealand flew around half of the 500,000 trips taken from New Zealand to Queensland in 2019,” says Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty.

Airports like Sunshine Coast (pictured) have long pushed for year-round flights to Auckland. Photo: Sunshine Coast Airport

Queensland Government helps get the new flights over the line

There’s normally decent traffic in the other direction as well. Nearly 400,000 Queenslanders crossed the Tasman in 2019 to take advantage of the winter ski season or visit friends and relatives.

The Queensland Government didn’t say how much they’d contributed under the agreement. Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe says;

“It’s part of our investment of more than $860 million in direct support for the tourism industry’s Economic Recovery Plan.

“The new flights add more than 26,000 seats to the flight schedules of three regional international airports as part of the Government’s commitment to helping tourism to rebuild better.”

The Tasmanian Government recently secured Air New Zealand flights to Hobart under a similar commercial in confidence agreement.

Air New Zealand already flies to OOL from Auckland. Now it starts flights from Christchurch. Photo: Gold Coast Airport

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Queensland flights in the schedules and bookable

Neither the Queensland Government nor Air New Zealand specified when these flights would start (or resume once the travel corridor re-opens). However, Air New Zealand has flights bookable on its website. The airline will be flying three times a week to Sunshine Coast and four times a week to Cairns by mid-July. According to Air New Zealand’s website, Airbus A320s will fly to MCY, and Airbus A321neos will head to CNS.

The new route between Christchurch and Gold Coast will fly thrice weekly using a mix of A320 and A320neo aircraft. Of course, if the travel corridor to Queensland doesn’t re-open soon, you could expect those schedules to be culled and delayed. Nonetheless, the airports are delighted at the prospects of extra business.

“Year-round services will provide the opportunity to significantly increase the number of NZ visitors to the Far North every week,” says Cairns Airport Chief Executive Richard Barker.

Sunshine Coast Airport Chief Executive Officer Andrew Brodie says year-round flights to Auckland “delivers on a long-held ambition.”

After pausing all quarantine-free flights from Australia, New Zealand began allowing flights to resume today from select Australian states – but not yet Queensland. However, this time around, the New Zealand Government wants a pre-departure PCR or RT-PCR test, even if fully vaccinated. These tests normally cost more than US$100. That fee may prove the biggest damper on trans-Tasman travel since the bubble last popped.