Australia-New Zealand ‘travel bubble’ opens

Simon Calder
·2-min read
First flight: the trajectory of JetStar flight JQ201 from Sydney to Auckland (Flightradar24)
First flight: the trajectory of JetStar flight JQ201 from Sydney to Auckland (Flightradar24)

The first Australian tourists legally able to leave their country in more than a year have touched down in New Zealand – the only overseas nation open to them.

With about 40 flights on the first day, more than 6,000 people are expected to take advantage of the world’s first major “travel bubble”.

The two countries have established what is officially known as a “safe travel zone”. Neither tests nor quarantine are required of passengers.

Both nations closed their borders to most arrivals in March 2020.

Most Australian states have been open to Kiwi travellers for months, but 19 April is the first day in over a year that New Zealand has opened its borders to those in Australia.

Flight JQ201, operated by the Qantas budget subsidiary JetStar, departed 90 minutes late from Sydney airport at 7.40am local time and touched down in Auckland after a flight just short of three hours.

A few minutes later, an Air New Zealand jet touched down at the capital, Wellington, also after flying from Sydney.

Dozens more flights are operating to New Zealand on Monday – mainly from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, to Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

In addition, Qantas flew from Sydney and Brisbane to Queenstown, New Zealand’s “adventure capital” in the south island. Extra flights will be added as the ski season gets under way.

The Australian airline has also launched a completely new route between southern Queensland’s Gold Coast airport and Auckland.

An overnight Air New Zealand flight from Perth in Western Australia is due to arrive in Auckland early on Tuesday morning. The deployment of a wide-bodied Boeing 787 on a flight of more than 3,300 miles shows the degree of demand for connections between the two countries.

The chief executive of Qantas, Alan Joyce, said the opening of the two-way travel bubble was a significant milestone: “Quarantine-free travel has been almost 400 days in the making.

“New Zealand was Australia’s second biggest source of international visitors [after China] before the pandemic. Today, it’s about to go straight to number one.”

Qantas has marked the return to international flying by reopening lounges in the key east coast hubs of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

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