Hopes for a travel bubble 2.0 have been popped for approximately 20,000 trans-Tasman travellers in the lead-up to Christmas.
In yesterday’s COVID press conference, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that her country would be transitioning into its new ‘traffic light system’.
This arrangement allows businesses such as bars, restaurants, gyms and clubs to reopen according to their region’s vaccination rate.
The announcement was welcome news to Kiwis, especially those in Auckland who have been in lockdown since August.
Despite the good news, the NZ government is holding firm on their hotel quarantine policy for new arrivals.
NZ Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield responded to the decision to continue with the current measures.
“If you can imagine in our situation, people travelling in and if they were if they were self-isolating even, in different parts of the country, and there were cases there, and each one of those is in fact seeding another little outbreak, which is different from our current situation.”
Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to select states in Australia is legal.
However, as one week of hotel quarantine followed by three further days of home isolation is still a requirement for entry from Australia into New Zealand, there isn’t enough demand to fill planes arriving in Kiwi land from Oz.
This means there are fewer available planes flying back to Australia, hence the cancellations.
A week-long stay in New Zealand’s Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ) ain’t cheap either.
It currently costs $1610 for a citizen or permanent resident, or $2760 for a temporary visa holder.
Air New Zealand originally scheduled a multitude of flights during the first few weeks of December in the hopes that quarantine-free travel from Australia to New Zealand would be possible.
Leanne Geraghty, chief customer and sales officer at the airline, didn’t pull any punches in a company statement issued yesterday.
“Continued border uncertainty between NZ and Australia means Air New Zealand cancelled more than 1000 flights through to 31 December 2021,” Geraghty said.
“This will be particularly tough news for families and friends who were hoping to catch up over Christmas…. But our hands are tied until border restrictions ease, and we receive further clarity from the New Zealand Government.
“We appreciate this latest news means some customers will have to wait longer before reuniting with loved ones. We’re continuing to do everything we can to get them home safely as quickly as possible.”
Air New Zealand assured customers that they would provide a limited number of ‘red flights’ from Aus to NZ for those booked in for hotel quarantine.
A drastically reduced number of NZ to Sydney and NZ to Melbourne flights are also available in the lead-up to the new year.