Qantas will today operate its first international passenger flights since June, with a return service from Sydney to Auckland. It comes as NSW, NT and ACT today reopen their borders to travellers from New Zealand, who no longer need to quarantine in a hotel when arriving in Australia through Sydney.
But Qantas has delayed plans to relaunch flights from Christchurch to Sydney, and it has already reduced the number of flights it plans to operate between Auckland and Sydney for the foreseeable future. With New Zealanders still required to quarantine for two weeks when they return home, and Australians still banned from leaving the country without an exemption, it seems there is currently less demand for trans-Tasman travel than Qantas originally hoped for.
When this first step towards a long-awaited “trans-Tasman bubble” was announced a fortnight ago, Qantas scheduled 6x weekly Auckland-Sydney flights and 4x weekly Christchurch-Sydney flights to begin from today. This has now been scaled back to just two weekly Auckland-Sydney flights, which will operate on Mondays and Fridays (although a supplementary service will also run tomorrow).
The first international Qantas flight since June, QF143, will depart from Sydney at 10.10am this morning. The Boeing 737-800 service will arrive in Auckland at 3.15pm, before returning to Sydney as QF146 at 4.15pm.
From today New Zealanders can travel to New South Wales, ACT or Northern Territory without needing to quarantine on arrival as long as they’ve been in New Zealand for the past 14 days, and not in an area designated as a COVID-19 hotspot. Travellers will need to complete an Australian government health declaration form and must wear face masks on board the flight.
A ticket on today’s Sydney-Auckland Qantas flight is currently selling for $680 one-way, and a seat on the return QF146 from Auckland to Sydney would cost NZD642. That’s a lot, but still much cheaper than paying for two weeks of quarantine in a Sydney hotel!
Qantas has not operated regular commercial international flights since late March 2020, and operated only a limited number of government-subsidised international charter flights between April and June. Qantas has not carried any passengers on international flights since the funding for those flights stopped, although it continues to operate cargo flights.
While Qantas may add more trans-Tasman flights if restrictions on travel between Australia and New Zealand are eased further, it does not expect to relaunch other international services until at least July 2021. Like many things, this is contingent on government travel restrictions and the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.
But the ABC reported yesterday that Qantas may operate more special repatriation flights from the UK and India to Darwin, on behalf of the federal government, as early as next week.
Jetstar is also resuming limited trans-Tasman flights from today, with a 3x weekly service between Auckland and Sydney.
Air New Zealand will continue operating limited trans-Tasman flights, and will now be able to sell its Auckland-Sydney flights to full capacity. But Virgin Australia won’t relaunch flights to New Zealand until quarantine-free travel is permitted in both directions.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: New Zealand Travel Bubble Announcement