Australia-New Zealand flights set for likely September start

A business push for trans-Tasman travel from July has met with solid pushback from New Zealand, saying it's two month too early.

By David Flynn, June 5 2020
Australia-New Zealand flights set for likely September start

The trans-Tasman travel bubble is taking shape but New Zealand has moved to smack down a push for flights to begin in July, with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying that September is a more realistic timeframe.

Australian and New Zealand chambers of commerce proposed launching flights between Canberra and Wellington as a "proof of concept" and Canberra Airport this week asked would-be travellers to register their interest in flights on the capital city corridor for July 1 and July 2 – despite no airlines having signed up to run the route.

Air New Zealand quickly discounted the idea, with a spokesperson saying the Kiwi carrier "is not proposing Tasman operations until such time that the Tasman borders are open, and only with the support of governments on both sides."

The push from business and tourism groups in both countries come with the approach of the July school holidays and the peak of the New Zealand ski season, which runs from mid-June through to early October.

Government agencies, health experts, airports, Qantas and Air New Zealand are all part of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group which is drawing up a detailed plan for how trans-Tasman travel would recommence, although this will need to be ratified by the Australian and New Zealand governments.

Ardern stressed yesterday that the blueprint was more a matter of laying the necessary groundwork rather than giving a green light to reconnect both countries without the need for mandatory 14-day quarantine periods.

Ready, set, fly

"We're focussed on making sure that as soon as we are ready we can move, we won't be constrained by needing to do any administrative or logistical work at our borders." Arden said yesterday, "so that when we're in a the position of our health officials and epidemiologists saying they are comfortable that New Zealand and Australia don't pose risks to one another, then we'll be ready to go."

"September is realistic, but I haven't given specifics around what date precisely. Needless to say, Prime Minister Morrison and I are very, very keen to see us moving towards an opening-up of our borders as soon as it's safe to do so."

Ardern has argued that New Zealand's border controls have been a key plank in the government's goal of eliminating the virus. The country now has only eight active coronavirus cases and no new cases reported in the past two weeks, while Australia ha 498 active cases including 90 new cases in the past seven days.

"Australia is still dealing with cases, so a little more progress is required," Ardern said. "I don’t want to raise expectations, particularly with the tourism sector, without knowing what is possible. But I think it is fair to say we are all very eager,  we are just eager to do it safely.”

Passport, boarding pass, blood test...

Before hopping into that quick flight across the pond, travellers may need to undergo a COVID-19 test and carry a certificate confirming they are free from the disease.

Kevin Markwell, Professor of Tourism at Australia’s Southern Cross University, told Executive Traveller that to keep the trans-Tasman bubble from bursting, the list of eligibly passengers might be restricted to those with a lower risk of suffering serious illness “and perhaps requiring all travellers to download an app which could be used to track their movements within each country, in case this was necessary to trace contacts if any further outbreaks were to take place.”

“The ability to quickly put a halt on travel between the two countries will also need to be built into any strategy,” Markwell cautioned. “Whether people would be willing to risk travel if their travel insurance didn’t cover them for illness associated with COVID-19 is another consideration."


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 469

The travel insurance issue will be an interesting one to watch. The T&Cs for the policy associated with my credit card have not been modified in response to Covid19, however there is an exclusion for failing to follow the advice or take heed of a warning from any government, which I would interpret as excluding cover in the current circumstances.

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 149

travel insurance wont cover anything whatsoever associated in the remotest way with a pandemic. Also be very careful relying on your credit card insurance, it generally doesn't cover all the things you assume it might. I found out the hard way :(

Velocity Platinum

08 Jul 2011

Total posts 15

Agree entirely with dm12. Card travel insurance, as I also found out the hard way, is really quite useless. Even purchased travel insurance is very doubtful too in my experience.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 469

I have claimed in travel insurance only twice. Once on credit card cover for medical costs for a ski injury and once on a typical travel insurance policy for a stolen bag that contained a computer. The credit card insurance was by far the easiest, though I was surprised a how casually it was handled. They settled the claim with a payment to my bank account with no correspondence to advise of the payment or close the claim. For the claim for the stolen bag they messed around with verification of the police report and then wanted evidence of the purchase of the claimed items. Stern words were needed to get it settled. It was a trivial amount compared to the historical value of insurance purchased.

I think NZ has only 1 active case as at 5th June?

Sept is way too late. I'm betting on early next month. NZ especially can't afford no international tourists & Ardern will lose election if she doesn't get economy moving fast. Not sure who her advisors are, but they don't seem very smart.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 197

What NZ wants is 'free' movement across the Tasman based on NZ and Australian COVID19 tracing apps without quarantines, pieces of paper, blood test, etc. To allow this to happen, Australian needs to have no new reported cases for at least 28 days. Once that has been completed, then trans Tasman travel will start, so September is most likely will be the start date.

You also need to remember, NZ is under pressure to start travel to South Pacific destination like the Cook Islands, Nuie, Samoa, Tonga which have no COVID19 cases as these nations tourism industries are still in hibernation and are major employers, hence the need for Australia to be COVID19 'free'.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1425

It is worth noting that a Qatar Airways flight into Greece last week had 19 who tested positive and two we're from Australia. This is despite all the pre flight checks etc. a symptomatic people are later testing positive. This adds to further complications. Maybe a 24 quarantine while tests are done on arrival but still people will get through.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1425

Regular the NZ government is very clear on being cautious and the fact that they will be the first country to be COVID free next week is testament to that and the source of the government's very high popularity. As long as they keep seeing new infections in Australia they will be cautious, so your suggestions of in the nexts month is probably not likely. The point is they want to do it quarantine free hence it is quite tricky. Note most new infections in Australia are from people in quarantine, so yes it works for returning residents but not the best for tourists or business folk. My bet is it will take much longer than a month to sort out the protocols for quarantine free entry, and second the government will romp home in the election as long as no new infections come in from Australia.


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 75

Why would New Zealand expend so much effort to eradicate and then undo all the good work?

Australia is going to be the weakest link.

Ardern is doing a good job.

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 1

Meanwhile during the lockdown when most aircraft were grounded & there was virtually no traffic across the Tasman there were more than usual AirNZ flights between Auckland & Shanghai. I have many Flightradar24 screen captures of sometime 4 AirNZ 789's over the Coral Sea, 2 heading to Shanghai, 2 returning. Are they just being used as freighters & if so wouldn't be more economical to use designated freighter aircraft?


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1425

There are many flights returning Chinese students and tourists home and Kiwis coming back, all subject to 14 day quarantine. There is also freight which has increased in the last month.

Mrs Ardern is being pretty sensible. NSW and VIC first need to get COVID19 under control. Massive economic risk of undoing all NZ good work.

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