New Zealand is imposing tough new travel restrictions on all visitors, residents and citizens as it moves to combat the coronavirus crisis, effectively grinding business travel to a halt across the Tasman.
From 11:59pm NZ Daylight Time on Sunday March 15, almost all international passengers arriving into New Zealand will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, including travellers jetting across the ditch from Australia.
This applies regardless of the purpose of travel or the traveller’s citizenship, with Australians and New Zealanders equally affected, along with passport holders of other countries.
Qantas and Virgin Australia are expected to slash their NZ flights in response to the ruling. New Zealand is the most popular international destination for Australian travellers: here’s how the new restrictions affect you.
Flights to New Zealand from most countries, including Australia
As above, all passengers arriving into New Zealand from Australia – along with most other countries, including the United States – will be required to register their details at the airport as part of the border inspection process, and then self-isolate in New Zealand for 14 days.
The New Zealand Government will carry out “spot checks” of those in self-isolation to ensure compliance.
“As of midnight Sunday, every person entering New Zealand, including returning New Zealand citizens and residents, will be required to enter self-isolation for 14 days. Everybody,” confirms New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“Alongside Israel, and a small number of Pacific Islands who have effectively closed their border, this decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world.”
“We did not take these decisions lightly. We know these travel restrictions will place significant strain on the aviation industry, and we anticipate some routes will reduce or cease for a period of time,” Ardern adds.
These restrictions will be reviewed by the New Zealand Government in 16 days’ time.
Implications for passengers with existing bookings
Passengers with confirmed travel should contact their airline or travel agent to discuss their options. Air New Zealand passengers can request a full refund, the airline confirmed in a statement to media.
Alternatively, the value of AirNZ bookings can be held in credit for 12 months from the date of ticket purchase, or travel dates can be amended without change fees – although any fare difference remains payable.
The airline's Chief Revenue Officer, Cam Wallace, also shares that "we are up-gauging and rescheduling some flights tomorrow (Sunday) so they arrive in NZ before midnight," to avoid the new restrictions.
Qantas passengers travelling to or from New Zealand before March 31 2020 can cancel their flights and retain the value in credit, to be used within 12 months of the original purchase date.
Virgin Australia expects to operate trans-Tasman flights as normal until March 22, before reducing services.
Passengers booked to fly from now until June 30 2020 who no longer wish to travel have the choice of changing their flight at no fee, or having the value of their booking converted into a 'travel bank' credit.
Flights to New Zealand from Pacific Island nations
The requirement to self-isolate will not apply to passengers arriving into New Zealand directly from a list of countries and territories in the Pacific Islands.
This includes arrivals from the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.
But while these travellers are free to arrive in New Zealand, NZ is imposing a tough set of restrictions on passengers departing for those same countries.
Those who have been outside New Zealand in the 14 days prior to their Pacific-bound flight will be denied travel. Additionally, “people who are close or casual contacts of a confirmed case” of COVID-19 will also be refused travel, along with those experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Passengers who aren’t restricted from travelling to the Pacific Islands will instead need to undergo a medical assessment at the airport prior to their flight, which will include a temperature check.
“New Zealand has a huge sense of responsibility to support our Pacific neighbours,” explains the Prime Minister, with NZ being “a key departure route to the Pacific.”
Other restrictions and travel advice
As part of these same restrictions, all cruise ships are now barred from New Zealand until at least June 30 2020, when that policy will be reviewed.
New Zealand is also advising its citizens to avoid all non-essential international travel to reduce the risk of further coronavirus cases being imported into the country.
“If you don’t need to travel overseas, then don’t. Enjoy your own back yard for a time,” Ardern suggests.
This follows similar advice given by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on March 13, suggesting that only essential international travel should be considered.
The Australian Government’s Smartraveller service now advises travellers to reconsider their need to visit New Zealand – a warning level that is progressively being applied to every country in the world for which Smartraveller provides advice, except those at the higher “do not travel” level.
Qantas, Virgin Australia prepare to cut NZ flights
Qantas has already reduced flights to New Zealand as part of sweeping worldwide cut-backs, and further cuts are tipped to follow as the NZ restrictions and increased coronavirus concerns cruel any remaining appetite for trans-Tasman travel.
Likewise, Virgin Australia's planned "temporary reduction" of Sydney-Auckland and Melbourne-Auckland flights will cut far deeper after March 22, Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah has advised staff in an internal memo sighted by Executive Traveller.
"Following this date, we will be substantially reducing our services to and from New Zealand," Scurrah said.