Travel between Australia and New Zealand might be possible soon following a joint meeting between the two countries on May 5th. What will travel between the two regions entail? And when will passengers be able to fly?
What is the trans-Tasman bubble?
New Zealand is soon to be one of the only coronavirus free countries in the world, with its plan to eliminate the virus coming to fruition in the next few weeks. But once the infection is gone from its shores, the country will still need to be extra vigilant regarding new travelers to prevent the virus from returning.
So far, the border has been closed to anyone who is not a New Zealand citizen, and those new arrivals who are allowed in the country need to undergo a 14-day quarantine. This is because there is nowhere in the world (baring smaller Pacific islands) that does not have the virus.
This could all change when New Zealand’s big brother Australia also eliminates or gets the coronavirus under control. Passengers traveling between the two nations might be exempt from the 14-day quarantine as they come from a ‘safe’ country. This would create what has been dubbed the trans-Tasman bubble.
How would this work in practice?
On May 5th, government officials from both sides of the Tasman Sea had a meeting about opening up the borders to each other.
According to FlightGlobal, in addition to the support from the top end of town, a special task force will be created called the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group. This group will have representatives from airlines, government, border security, airports, and more, to manage the easing of border restrictions.
“Our target outcome will be a safe set of travel processes to manage health risks while allowing trans-Tasman travel to recommence without the need for a 14-day compulsory quarantine or self-isolation period on arrival in the destination country,” said Margy Osmond, Australian co-chair of the ANZLF tourism sector group.
The groups’ primary role will be to facilitate the special handling of international travelers, registering them, and contact tracing to ensure that the bubble remains sealed. Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said in the same statement,
“It’s going to take time and a collective effort to develop solutions, but drawing on the expertise of this group and the ANZLF our hope is that all parts of the system will be ready to go when the health evidence supports it.”
No specific date has yet been given for the border openings, only that it will be announced when the virus has subsided enough.
What would this mean for airlines?
The easing of border restrictions would be a big win for trans-Tasman airlines such as Air New Zealand and Qantas, who have both essentially lost all international travel business.
Australians who are keen to travel to the New Zealand ski fields in winter (July and August in the southern hemisphere) will soon be able to do so, and New Zealanders likewise can travel to Queensland to escape the cold (Brisbane is a popular destination for them).
Airlines will now have a new line of bilateral revenue opened up, and cargo trade will decrease in price once there are more flights flying between the two countries.
It is unknown at this time if Virgin Australia will also benefit, as it is still dealing with voluntary administration proceedings.
Will this plan be rolled out elsewhere?
The world is holding its collective breath to see what happens with the trans-Tasman bubble and if the idea can be rolled out to other countries around the world. The primary reason why it would work so well in Oceania is that all the nations are islands and don’t have land borders with other infected countries.
However, once this bubble is established, it could slowly expand to include other areas such as the South Pacific, Taiwan (a country with very low coronavirus numbers), parts of South-East Asia, and beyond.
What do you think of this plan? Will it work? Let us know in the comments.