Transtasman bubble: Air NZ, Qantas, Jetstar restart flights

Airports on both sides of the Tasman and airlines are preparing for the start of a one-way bubble travel tomorrow with Air New Zealand operating a special quarantine-free flight.

From tomorrow those on quarantine-free flights to New South Wales and the Northern Territory won’t have to go into isolation for 14 days. Those returning to New Zealand will however, have to go through quarantine.

Jetstar and Qantas will also resume limited services from Auckland to Sydney tomorrow joining Air New Zealand and Qatar flying transtasman.

Air New Zealand says it will operate its first flight as part of the Safe Travel Zone with New South Wales tomorrow with nearly all passengers booked one-way.

The airline’s chief executive Greg Foran says in order for the airline to continue to carry passengers safely and identify passengers with travel not originating in New Zealand, it has introduced what’s known as ‘quarantine’ and ‘quarantine-free’ flights.

“The quarantine-free flights will be for travellers originating from New Zealand who are flying from Auckland to Sydney and are not required to quarantine on arrival in Australia.”

Quarantine flights will be open to passengers who do not meet the Safe Travel Zone criteria and will be required to quarantine on arrival in Australia.

Flight NZ103 tomorrow will depart Auckland at 10:40am and will be a quarantine-free flight.

“It’s been a huge undertaking to ensure we are ready for this one-way arrangement,” Foran said.

“We know passengers onboard may have been waiting a long time to get back to New South Wales. Around 90 per cent of those travelling on tomorrow’s flight are booked to travel one-way.”

Air New Zealand is currently operating eight return flights between Auckland and Sydney per week and will look to operate two quarantine flights per week, while the remaining flights will be quarantine-free.

Between October 16 and October 24, the airline will operate three quarantine flights – onOctober 17,October 22 and October 24 and all other flights will be quarantine-free. OnOctober 22 the airline will operate both a quarantine-free and a quarantine flight. The airline is working through flights from October 25.

Passengers planning to travel interstate beyond New South Wales will need to ensure they have checked state and territory travel restrictions and have the appropriate exemptions/approvals to travel as these continue to change.

Due to Australian state restrictions, fares beyond Sydney to destinations within Australia are not available to be booked via Air New Zealand.

In updates to the Australian government’s department of Home Affairs website it says
green and red zones have been created at airports in Australia to ensure the separation of passengers arriving on ‘quarantine-free’ flights, from other passengers who are required to enter mandatory quarantine.

”Those on a quarantine-free flight, you will be guided through the green zone to complete all border clearance processes in the airport of arrival in Australia. ”

Auckland Airport says it has various technology trials underway at the airport to protect the health and safety of passengers.

Passenger numbers remain low – only about 3700 international seats are available each week. There is one Qantas and one Jetstar return flight tomorrow and it is likely they will carry mainly Australians returning home.

The easing of passenger limits into Australia means Air New Zealand will increase its capacity by 12,000 seats across the Tasman through to January.

Auckland Airport’s general manager operations, Anna Cassels-Brown, said the company was taking a layered approach to protecting the health and safety of people in terminals.

This includes measures currently in place for transit passengers, who are processed through entirely separate areas of the terminal from passengers departing New Zealand – including passengers departing to Australia under the new quarantine-free arrangements.

Standards are aligned with Ministry of Health recommendations and meet global guidelines developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN specialised agency.

“This is a serious virus, but we know there’s a lot we can do to manage the risk. So, the focus for us has been to introduce a range of protection measures around the terminal that reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting Covid-19 at the airport, and provide a safe environment for people to work in or travel through.”

Anti-viral cleaning throughout the terminals has been undertaken more frequently since the outbreak of the pandemic, with a focus on high-touch areas. On-the-spot cleaning audits are carried out using handheld, digital scanners that ensure the cleaning regime is effectively killing germs.

In addition, trials are currently underway on a range of cleaning technology solutions. Ultraviolet light technology, commonly used to sterilise surgical equipment, installed on escalator handrails, antimicrobial shields added to elevator buttons, and thermal-imaging cameras that can detect someone with a fever amongst a group of people are among technology being tested by Auckland Airport.

“These are really unobtrusive ways we can improve the comfort of travellers in this post-Covid environment and are changes that for the most part will go unnoticed,” saidCassels-Brown.

All frontline airport company staff who interact with arriving passengers continue to be regularly tested in line with the Ministry of Health requirements.

There are currently 15 retail and food and beverage outlets open for departing passengers both before and after security. Both terminals are also open to everybody under alert level 1.

Australia’s Home Affairs department says passengers can travel from New Zealand to Australia, quarantine-free, if they have been in New Zealand for 14 days or more and not been in a designated hotspot, and are travelling to Australia on a quarantine-free flight.

”You do not need to be a New Zealand citizen to travel to Australia quarantine-free if you meet the above criteria, but you will need a valid visa to enter Australia. New Zealand citizens do not need to apply for a visa before coming to Australia.”

While quarantine-free travel from New Zealand will initially be to New South Wales and the Northern Territory, other states and territories may be added at a later date, the department says.

The New Zealand government is working on setting up a two-way quarantine-free system but has said it will only do so when safe.

Today New South Wales recorded six new cases of Covid-19 in the community after 11 locally acquired cases yesterday which prompted a pause some easing of restrictions.

Northern Territory says there is no evidence of community transmission of Covid-19 having had just 34 cases, all of who had recovered since the pandemic struck.

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