What To Expect From The Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble

Despite New Zealand’s Prime Minister delaying the announcement of a trans-Tasman travel bubble on Monday, there remains a quiet but growing confidence trans-Tasman travel and quarantine restrictions will be unwound by the end of April.

New Zealand has delayed the announcement of a trans-Tasman travel bubble. Photo: Getty Images

PM Ardern delays trans-Tasman travel bubble announcement

There was a widespread expectation New Zealand’s PM, Jacinda Ardern, would greenlight the trans-Tasman travel bubble on Monday. However, citing a few wrinkles yet to be ironed out, the PM put the brakes on any announcement.

“We intend to announce the commencement date for the trans-Tasman travel bubble on 6 April,” PM Ardern said at a press conference in Wellington.

“It goes without saying that opening up a green travel zone with Australia, without quarantine, is highly complex. Officials have been considering and working through these complexities for months.”

The delay was met with disappointment. Community transmission cases of COVID-19 in both countries are now relatively unusual. Both countries have tough quarantine regimes for any inbound international passengers that is proving effective in keeping the virus out.

Jacinda Ardern still has a few concerns to iron out before greenlighting the travel bubble. Photo: Getty Images

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Prime Minister kicks the travel bubble can down the road

There was a verbal agreement made last year to start the trans-Tasman travel bubble this month. But Australia’s federation of States, each doing their own thing running health and quarantine programs, along with the Federal Government in Canberra trying to corral them, is making Jacinda Ardern somewhat wary.

For its part, Australia has allowed most New Zealanders to enter and bypass the quarantine requirements since October. The Federal Government has also quietly amended its Biosecurity Act that prevents most Australians from traveling abroad without permission.

“We have facilitated it so as Australians can leave Australia if and when New Zealand is at a point where they feel comfortable to receive Australians without quarantine,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday.

Right now, even the one-way travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia isn’t doing much to stimulate trans-Tasman travel. Qantas is running a couple of flights a week between Auckland and Sydney. Air New Zealand is doing slightly better, running around five services a week between Auckland and Sydney, and two or three flights a week between Auckland and Brisbane and Auckland and Melbourne.

At the moment, Air New Zealand is operating more trans-Tasman flights than Qantas. Photo: Getty Images

April long weekend looking like a likely start date

However, there’s a view that the last weekend in April may mark the start date for the trans-Tasman travel bubble. It’s the ANZAC Day long weekend in both countries and normally a busy time for trans-Tasman travel.

Air New Zealand seems to think that might be the case. Looking at the airline’s website for travel on Sunday, April 25, they’ve got five services on sale between Sydney and Auckland, along with a flight to Christchurch and Queenstown on offer.

Air New Zealand is ramping up its services on the trans-Tasman significantly over the week before the ANZAC Day long weekend. That’s not just and from Sydney, but also the key east coast Australian cities of Brisbane and Melbourne.

In addition, the popular 787-9 Dreamliner flight from Adelaide to Auckland is timetabled back in from March 19. Air New Zealand flights between Perth and Auckland are also scheduled to resume on March 19. What hasn’t yet been added to Air New Zealand’s booking system are the new flights between Hobart and Auckland.

Air New Zealand normally flies to nine airports in Australia. It will take them a little while to get back to that but their current scheduling reflects a growing confidence that the trans-Tasman travel bubble will commence sooner rather than later. Then flights on the normally busy corridor may start getting back to normal.