Australia has taken the first step towards establishing a long-anticipated “trans-Tasman bubble” between Australia and New Zealand. But, at this stage, it’s only a one-way bubble and New Zealanders can only travel to selected states & territories in Australia without needing to quarantine.
From Friday 16 October 2020, it will be possible to travel from New Zealand to New South Wales and the Northern Territory without quarantine. South Australia and the ACT could also join in the bubble in the near future, although this has not yet been announced. But this will only be possible for New Zealanders that haven’t been in a part of New Zealand considered a COVID-19 hotspot in the past 14 days.
This will be based on the Australian government’s definition, which defines a hotspot using a three-day rolling average of three locally acquired cases per day. There are currently no COVID-19 hotspots in New Zealand, based on this definition. The Australian government says it is working closely with New Zealand authorities to ensure it is “notified promptly” of any outbreaks there.
The announcement comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged last month his government could remove the hotel quarantine requirement for people arriving from COVID-free parts of New Zealand. This is also expected to vacate around 325 weekly spaces in Sydney’s hotel quarantine system each week to cater for travellers coming from other, more high-risk countries.
New Zealanders still need to quarantine when returning home
This news has been welcomed by many in the airline and tourism industries – as well as those that want to see family or need to travel “across the ditch” for work. But, while it is a positive step towards the establishment of a full trans-Tasman bubble, it’s only in one direction. New Zealand has not yet reciprocated, and Australians would still need to apply for an exemption to travel to New Zealand.
Even though New Zealanders will soon be able to travel to Sydney or Darwin without hotel quarantine, they will still need to pay for two weeks of managed isolation on return to New Zealand. That costs around $3,000 per person.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that her country was not yet ready to reopen quarantine-free travel from Australia. She said it was “not at this stage clear as to whether [NSW] still have community transmission”.
“And that’s key for us, one of our criterion is 28 days clear, so there’s a bit of time yet before we would consider it safe,” Ardern said.
Australians face similar problems when travelling to any of the countries that have recently reopened quarantine-free travel from Australia, such as Singapore. Some countries will allow Australians to enter, but Aussies still need to apply for permission to leave and still must quarantine on return – if they can even find a flight home.
Qantas, Jetstar & Air New Zealand add trans-Tasman seats
From Friday 16 October, Qantas and Jetstar will both resume limited flights between Australia and New Zealand. Air New Zealand, meanwhile, will from this date remove the cap on the number of passengers that can travel on its 5x weekly Auckland-Sydney flights.
Once the inbound quarantine requirement is lifted, Qantas will operate 6x weekly flights between Sydney-Auckland and 4x weekly flights between Sydney & Christchurch, using Boeing 737-800s. Jetstar will also resume 3x weekly flights between Auckland and Sydney. Jetstar’s tickets are by far the cheapest, with a seat on the first Auckland-Sydney flight available for AUD$200.
But Virgin Australia won’t resume flights at this early stage. It says that it is commercially reliant on two-way traffic.
Although this initial limited trans-Tasman “bubble” is between New Zealand, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, there are currently no direct flights between New Zealand and Darwin. Unless a creative airline launches Auckland-Darwin flights, travellers would presumably need to fly from Auckland to Sydney and then continue on another flight to Darwin, Alice Springs or Uluru. Travel from Sydney to the Northern Territory is not currently permitted, but is expected to reopen on 9 October. Bizarrely, a search for Auckland-Darwin flights on the Qantas website currently returns no results.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: New Zealand Travel Bubble Announcement