Twenty-four hours after the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand got the green light, flights are roaring back to life. Airlines are throwing capacity back onto multiple trans-Tasman routes after a year of near dormant activity on the normally busy sector.
From 19 April, the number of weekly flights between Australia and New Zealand will rise from the single digits to the hundreds.
“I’ll certainly be digging out my passport for the first time since I joined the airline,” shares Air New Zealand’s Greg Foran in a statement, who’ll be joining the exodus of Kiwis expected to flood Australia.
“We expect strong demand for flights to New Zealand, and there are many Kiwis who can’t wait for a winter escape to warmer weather in Australia,” says Qantas’ Andrew David.
Three airlines will be joining the prospective gold rush; Qantas, its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, and Air New Zealand.
The Qantas Group goes back to 83% capacity on trans-Tasman routes
To date, the Qantas Group has been operating at less than 3% of its normal trans-Tasman capacity. By the end of this month, that will bounce back to 83%, with the potential for further increases.
Qantas and Jetstar will be running up to 122 return flights a week between Australia and New Zealand. Qantas will use a mix of its A330 and Boeing 737 aircraft. Jetstar will run their Airbus A320 aircraft across the Tasman.
From April 19, the Australian east coast capitals of Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney will all see direct Qantas flights to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown. On most days, there will be more than one daily flight on the busier sectors, such as those to Auckland.
Qantas is also continuing its recent habit of launching new routes. The airline will start flying between the Gold Coast and Auckland later this month. This will be the first-ever Qantas international service out of the Goldie. There will also be a return to the past. Qantas is returning to the Cairns – Auckland route in June. Alas, this time, it won’t be on a Boeing 747.
Jetstar will return to trans-Tasman flying with initial services from Melbourne, Sydney, and the Gold Coast to Auckland. The low-cost airline plans to pick up the rest of their previous trans-Tasman routes in the middle of the year.
Air New Zealand bounces back with Australian flights
Air New Zealand is also returning to Australia in a big way. The airline has always done a good job of connecting Australia’s key cities to New Zealand. They’ve also stuck with some routes throughout the travel downturn. By the end of June, Air New Zealand will be flying back into all its previous Australian destinations.
“Pre-COVID-19, Australia was the largest tourism market for both our airline and New Zealand,” Mr Foran said yesterday. Air New Zealand’s beefed-up frequencies to Australia follow;
A notable absence is Virgin Australia. Yesterday the airline confirmed it would head back to New Zealand but not until later this year. The airline will dip its toes into the Queenstown market from mid-September. Virgin Australia intends to return to the rest of New Zealand at the beginning of November.
It is understood the airline, bloodied by its collapse last year, remains wary of snap border closures and the financial costs that would impose. A Virgin Australia spokesperson says the airline remains committed to New Zealand. But for the time being, the airline appears happy to sit back, focus on the Australian market, and see how things pan out.
Amid the high fiving yesterday at finally getting the travel bubble deal done, plenty of pundits warn not everything may go smoothly. Both Australia and New Zealand are reserving the right to temporarily close their borders if there are any further significant outbreaks. Travel agents also believe the flow of passengers will be skewed towards Australia, with that country reaping most of the benefits from the travel bubble. But for Qantas, Jetstar, and Air New Zealand, yesterday’s announcement was the best news they’ve had in a long time.