New Zealand appears to have scrapped the trans-Tasman bubble, announcing Australians won’t be able to enter the country until April next year.
The news comes just days after Air New Zealand pulled the pin on more than 1,000 flights to 31 December, blaming continued border uncertainty between the two destinations.
The airline said in a tweet it estimated 20,000 customers would be impacted by the cancellations.
New Zealand’s COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins released a three-step opening strategy on Wednesday, which would see fully vaccinated Kiwis in Australia return without spending two weeks in quarantine from 16 January.
Foreign nationals, including Australians, will be the last group allowed in with fully vaccinated travellers from eligible countries around the world allowed to visit the country from 30 April.
Continued border uncertainty between NZ and Australia means Air New Zealand canceled more than 1000 flights through to 31 December 2021. This follows other cancellations made since QFT was first paused.
— AirNZMedia (@AirNZMedia) November 22, 2021
However, Hipkins said those entering New Zealand will still be required to self-isolate for seven days and undergo testing before their departure, on arrival and at the end of the isolation period.
Those who have been in a country or area classified as “very high risk” will still need to undergo a mandatory 14-days in hotel quarantine. New Zealand is expected to remove Indonesia, Fiji, India, Pakistan and Brazil from the “very high risk” category in early December.
“In the end, we’ve done what we’ve always done, and that is to follow expert advice – which continues to show us the border is our biggest risk for new cases,” he said.
“… our current outbreak which now has over 7,000 cases associated with it, stems from a single traveller travelling from Australia to New Zealand.
“A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed. This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system.”
More information on isolation requirements will be released in December.
Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said the announcement signalled the beginning of the return to international travel.
“A date for travel is the certainty that Air New Zealand has been waiting for, and while it would have been nice to reunite friends and families this side of Christmas, customers will now have the confidence to plan reunions and holidays into the New Year,” Geraghty said.
“We can be ready before late April to fly visitors from around the globe and we’re hoping New Zealand’s success with vaccinations will see that decision reviewed and brought forward in the new year.”
However, not everyone was as pleased as the Kiwi national carrier.
Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) boss Dean Long said the plan was a “complete body blow” for travel between Australia and New Zealand.
“I think everybody in Australia and New Zealand saw two countries that were closely aligned in terms of their recovery from Covid-19. That will be extremely challenging now with New Zealand’s reopening so far down the track,” Long told the Australian.
“People typically book overseas holidays at least six to nine months out, so with New Zealand not reopening until basically May, their travel industry will be lucky to see too many visitors in 2022.”