Pull out your suitcase! New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern has just announced the launch of a reciprocal travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand. The long-awaited travel bubble will commence at 11.59 pm on Sunday 18th April 2021.
The green light for this trans-Tasman bubble comes after more than a year of closed international borders with Australia.
Of course, New Zealand travellers can already fly to many Australian states without having to undergo mandatory quarantine. Today's announcement means that travellers from both countries will be exempt from quarantine restrictions. As a result, Australian residents will soon be able to fly to New Zealand without having to enter mandatory hotel quarantine.
How the travel bubble will work
New Zealand plans to manage the travel bubble by effectively considering Australia as another region of New Zealand. If outbreaks occur, travel restrictions or suspensions will be paused on a state-by-state basis.
A matter of ‘flyer beware'
Ardern has stressed that for travellers who are planning to take a trans-Tasman trip, these are no ordinary times of travel. As a result, it's a case of ‘flyer-beware'. People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak.
Travellers caught up in affected hotspots will be asked to follow specific instructions. This could include monitoring symptoms on return, taking a test on arrival or undertaking self-managed isolation. In extreme cases, travellers may be asked to go into managed isolation for up to 14 days.
Additional safety precautions
There will be additional safety precautions in place both in the air and at the airport. Flights between Australia and New Zealand be operated in a ‘green zone', which will incorporate a number of measures to reduce the risk of COVID infections.
Passengers will only be able to travel on flights when they have been in Australia for the preceding 14 days and those with cold or flu symptoms won't be allowed to board. ‘Green zone' flights will be serviced by aircrew who have not flown on high-risk routes for a set period of time.
Masks will be compulsory in the air, and passengers from Australia will be obliged to download the Covid Safe Tracing app and provide contact information. Upon arrival, Aussies will be escorted through ‘green zone' areas of the airport, with random temperature checks in place.
Booking travel bubble flights
Airlines have already started preparations for the New Zealand travel bubble. Prior to the announcement, Air New Zealand had already added a significant number of services to cater for anticipated demand from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Qantas and Jetstar are expected to ramp up flights significantly as a result of today's announcement.
Travel-starved frequent flyers should keep an eye on the Qantas website for the release of three days of Points Planes to New Zealand, with more information about this initiative available here.
However, Virgin Australia loyalists will need to wait a while longer for flights to the land of the long white cloud. In a media statement today, Virgin confirmed that they have suspended the sale of most New Zealand services until 31 October 2021. A limited schedule for flights to and from Queenstown will remain available for booking from 18 September 2021.
We'll be publishing more about the trans-Tasman travel bubble as more information comes to hand.
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