New Zealand South Island – Australia Travel Corridor Flop

The partial reopening of a quarantine-free travel corridor between New Zealand and Australia is failing to take off. While some fully vaccinated travelers from New Zealand’s South Island can now fly to Australia and bypass quarantine on arrival, airlines are not putting on flights.

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Air New Zealand isn’t putting on flights to service the quarantine-free travel corridor between New Zealand’s South Island and Australia. Photo: Getty Images

Logistical issues make flights too difficult

On October 20, Australia began allowing Australians and New Zealanders who’d been on New Zealand’s South Island for at least two weeks to return to Australia under the previous travel corridor arrangements.

That was great news for the many people stranded in New Zealand by the snap closure of the previous quarantine-free travel corridor.

Aside from the one-way nature of the partial reopening, logistical issues are keeping airlines away. Australian Government quarantine requirements are deterring Air New Zealand from operating flights from South Island airports.

“While we would love to be able to operate quarantine-free flights out of Christchurch, there are a number of operational issues for our airline,” Air New Zealand’s website says.

“The Australian Government has stated that our crew needs to have been in the South Island for the preceding 14 days before quarantine-free flying. As our main crew group is based out of Auckland, this is unfortunately not viable.”

Air New Zealand normally flies to multiple Australian cities from the South Island cities of Queenstown and Christchurch.  Qantas has a similar network footprint. But Qantas is currently also bypassing New Zealand’s South Island.

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Qantas has also elected not to fly quarantine-free flights from New Zealand’s South Island. Photo: Getty Images

Some relief on the horizon

There is some relief on the horizon. When Sydney and Melbourne Airports begin allowing quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated travelers in November, Australian’s stuck on the South Island will be allowed to fly in via Auckland.

Air New Zealand will fly to Sydney twice a week from Auckland throughout November, increasing to six times a week in December. Qantas has not timetabled a return to any New Zealand port until mid-December.

By the end of the year, fully vaccinated New Zealanders should be able to enter Australia regardless of where they fly out from. However, this isn’t confirmed yet, and then there’s the whole matter of returning home.

New Zealand is eyeing reopening its borders early next year. The New Zealand Government has dropped its COVID-elimination strategy, preferring to get as many people vaccinated as they can. Around 70% of Kiwis are now fully vaccinated and the Government would like to get this up to 90% by the end of the year.

“I know they’ve been recalcitrant,” said Flight Centre’s CEO Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner last week. “But I think they will open up before Christmas, particularly to certain areas. The virus is pretty much endemic there, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t open up to fully vaccinated people.”

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Air New Zealand’s 2022 hopes rely on New Zealand meeting its vaccination targets and reopening. Photo: Getty Images

Air New Zealand & New Zealand Government in lockstep

While the partial reopening of the travel corridor is proving a bit of a dud, things are looking up for Air New Zealand’s international ops. Simple Flying has recently reported the airline is resuming its one-stop flights between Sydney and Auckland – a traditionally popular option for costs conscious travelers.

Air New Zealand is in lockstep with the New Zealand Government on vaccinations. Both are betting vaccination targets will be met. The South Island quarantine-free travel corridor flop notwithstanding, Air New Zealand’s hopes of a bumper 2022 rely on New Zealand hitting its vaccination targets and opening its borders.

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