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An Air New Zealand Boeing 787 Dreamliner landing in Houston. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Safe Travel Zone Prompts Quarantine-Free Flights to Australia

A glimmer of hope for a return to some kind of normality in the Trans-Tasman aviation market came a few days ago on Oct. 16, when Air New Zealand and Jetstar started operating flights under the new “Safe Travel Zone” agreed to by the Australian and New Zealand governments.

At the beginning of October, the two countries on each side of the Tasman Sea agreed to allow some “quarantine-free” flights to allow people from Auckland, New Zealand, to travel to Sydney without having to quarantine on their arrival. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, every individual arriving in Australia has been forced to spend a 14-day quarantine in a dedicated facility at their expense.

Air New Zealand flight NZ103 will be operated by a Boeing 787-9 aircraft and will be operated six times a week “quarantine-free,” while there will be two further flights that will operate on the usual provision that passengers arriving in Australia will have to quarantine.

Air New Zealand’s CEO Greg Foran commented, “It’s been a huge undertaking to ensure we are ready for this one-way arrangement. We know passengers onboard may have been waiting a while to get back to New South Wales. Around 90% of those traveling on [NZ103] are booked to travel one-way.”

Air New Zealand is not the only carrier restarting operations on the Trans-Tasman route. Jetstar, Qantas’ low-cost airline, is also serving the route three times per week with an Airbus A320 aircraft. This route marks the first international flight operated by the airline since last April.

Travel on these quarantine-free flights will be subject to passengers signing a declaration that they have spent the last 14 days in New Zealand and they had not spent time in a designated hotspot.

Australia Continues Its Repatriation Effort

“This is the next step for a COVID-safe Australia that will reunite families and friends, offer opportunities for businesses looking for workers, and back the communities that depend on tourism,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “Australia and New Zealand have worked closely together since the COVID-19 pandemic began. We are committed to opening up both domestic travel within Australia and travel with New Zealand, as well as other low-risk countries as soon as the health advice says it is safe to do so.”

Air New Zealand and Jetstar will also be joined by Qantas in providing flights between Auckland and Sydney. The Australian flag carrier will be operating the service twice per week with a Boeing 737 aircraft. These flights will be part of Qantas’s effort to rescue Australian citizens who have been stranded around the world since the beginning of the emergency and whose attempts to return home have been frustrated by the quotas imposed by the Australian government on the number of people allowed to enter the country each week.

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