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Tasmania Lands First International Flights Since 1990s
Tasmania is slated to get its first regularly-scheduled international flights in 23 years next month, as Air New Zealand will launch flights between Auckland and Hobart in April, Simple Flying reports. The move comes amid speculation over quarantine-free travel between the two countries, rumors of which have begun to spread in recent weeks.
Tasmania is an island state of Australia. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November announced a deal to reestablish a travel link between Tasmania and New Zealand for the first time since 1996. The deal, which was intended to start in January, will include 130 direct flights from Hobart each year, including three weekly services in warmer months and two weekly services in cooler winter months.
In that vein, Air New Zealand is launching twice-weekly flights with its Airbus A320neo fleet, which seats 165 passengers in an all-economy configuration. If the route goes well, a third weekly frequency is on the table. Flights will operate on Thursdays and Sundays and are subject to the approval of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.
Flying between secondary markets in New Zealand and Australia has long been tedious, as passengers have usually needed to connect through a big hub in Australia like Sydney or Melbourne. But the new direct service comes amid hopes of revitalizing the air travel industry to bolster a post-pandemic recovery. Tourist destinations like Tasmania are of special importance as leisure travel is expected to recover years before business demand bounces back.
“Our Hobart–Auckland route will open a direct link between 540,000 potential Tasmanian tourists and our biggest city,” Air New Zealand’s CEO Greg Foran said in a statement.
“There’s been a lot of speculation around whether or not [a travel bubble] will happen at all. We have never stopped working on the issue of the trans-Tasman [Sea] bubble,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday. “We remain committed to it.”
Australia allows most New Zealanders to skip their 14-day quarantine when entering the country, but New Zealand has yet to offer Australians the same perk.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said of the new service, “I am very pleased that this service will enable us to welcome more New Zealanders to our State and encourage them to consider booking their next holiday in Tassie and see what we have to offer.”
The last time Tasmania had regular international flights was in 1998, when Air New Zealand connected Hobart with Christchurch. The airline cut the services over fiscal concerns.
“The introduction of this new international service into Tasmania is great news for our community and our tourism industry as it will bring more visitors to our shores who are keen to spend, as well as opening up new areas for Tasmanians keen to travel,” Gutwein said.
The plan to restart travel between Tasmania and Australia will cost around 50 million Australian dollars ($38.6 million), and state governments will pitch in 10 million Australian dollars for structural upgrades.
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