Mark your calendars, because on Monday, April 19, Aussies will once again be able to visit our esteemed and extremely COVIDSafe mates in New Zealand. That’s right, the trans-Tasman travel bubble is finally here.
The news has only just dropped, and the decision was made by the Kiwi government, not Australia, so it’s still early days figuring out exactly how things are going to go down.
Consider the bubble as not between Australia and New Zealand as countries, but instead between each individual Aussie state and New Zealand. That means if there is a serious outbreak somewhere, it won’t affect travelers from other parts of the country.
Here’s what you need to know about how the whole thing is expected to play out.
Ooohh so NZ travel bubble gets announced & im already looking at flights & setting my tinder profile to Auckland ????
— LoloBuns (@lOrelliee) April 6, 2021
What airlines are offering flights to New Zealand?
Qantas has announced that it’ll operate up to 122 return flights per week once the trans-Tasman travel bubble starts up.
“Restarting flights to New Zealand is about more than starting to rebuild our international network, it’s about reconnecting families and friends and getting more of our people back flying again,” Qantas exec Andrew David said in a statement.
Meanwhile Jetstar will restart all of its pre-pandemic routes between Australia and New Zealand, plus two new ones from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast.
Air New Zealand has also hinted on social media that it will be flying passengers between New Zealand and Australia soon.
However, we do know that Virgin Australia doesn’t have New Zealand on its radar for the near future.
“We have suspended the sale of most New Zealand services until 31 October 2021,” a spokesperson said.
“A limited schedule for flights to and from Queenstown will remain available for booking from 18 September 2021.
“New Zealand remains a key part of our short-haul international network and we look forward to re-entering the Trans-Tasman market later this year.”
— Air New Zealand✈️ (@FlyAirNZ) April 6, 2021
What happens if a quarantine worker tests positive again?
You know the story. Every few months there’s news of a worker in a quarantine hotel accidentally contracting COVID-19 from a returning traveller.
After a few massive blunders earlier in 2020, it’s no longer an issue we really need to panic about.
In terms of the trans-Tasman travel bubble, it’ll likely be business as usual if the spread has been contained.
“For instance, if a case is found that is quite clearly linked to a border worker in a quarantine facility and is well contained, you’ll likely see travel continue in the same way as you could see life continue if that happened here in Australia,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a presser on Tuesday afternoon.
oomfies, when are we jetting off to New Zealand?!? pic.twitter.com/A6Dy4pnG6c
— sam (death era) (@samxmcgowan) April 6, 2021
What happens if there’s community transmission from an unknown source?
It’ll be a similar deal to what’s already happing with interstate travel within Australia.
“If a case was found that was not clearly linked to the border, and a state responded by a short lockdown to identify more information, we’d likely pause flights from that state in the same way we would stop travel into and out of a region in New Zealand as if it was were going into a full lockdown,” Ardern said.
“And if we saw multiple cases of unknown origin, we would likely suspend flights for a set period of time.”
Ardern added that the trans-Tasman travel bubble was designed with flexibility in mind.
“It does mean we have the ability, if we believe it safe to do so, to potentially pause or suspend flights in one state whilst, if another state remains unaffected, continuing travel there,” she said.
imagine how desperate to get out of the country new zealanders must be to be ok with letting australians in
— Jim Malo (@thejimmalo) April 6, 2021
Is there a chance Aussies could inadvertently mingle with people from other countries at the airport?
Aussies flying to New Zealand will be put on so-called “green zone” flights.
“That means there’ll be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days. They will also be flown from crew who have not flown on any high-risk routes for a set period of time,” Ardern said.
People on these flights will be asked to wear face masks and download the NZ COVID Tracer app as a precaution.
“On arrival, passengers will be taken through what we’ll call the ‘green zones’ at the airport meaning there’ll be no contact with those arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine facilities,” Ardern added.
It’s also pretty safe to assume that travelers at Aussie airports will be separated from other international arrivals as well.
New Zealand press conferences seem so friendly and positive
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) April 6, 2021
Should we expect our travel plans to be fucked up in the blink of an eye?
“While we absolutely wish to encourage family and friends to reunite and visitors to come and enjoy the hospitality New Zealand is ready and waiting to offer, those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so you were the guidance of flyer beware,” Ardern said.
Here’s the important part: “People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak.”
So it’s probably best to treat this trans-Tasman travel bubble the same way we currently treat interstate travel within Australia.
“There is no requirement for either side to give written, formal notice before a decision is made, because one of the important things we want to preserve on both sides is the ability for us to move quickly,” Ardern added.
We all know someone who’s had their Syd-Melb flight cancelled at the last minute, and we might just end up seeing he same thing for New Zealand.
Cruel of Jacinda Ardern to announce the AU/NZ travel bubble only after the Crowded House tour has already wrapped up.
— Albert Santos (@albertinho) April 6, 2021
What other countries are set to be included in the travel bubble?
New Zealand already has a one-way travel bubble with the Cook Islands, and Ardern said at Tuesday’s press conference that her “next focus” is opening a two-way travel bubble between the two countries.
While Australia wasn’t explicitly mentioned in that context, it does appear to be a possible next step in expanding out own travel bubble.
Meanwhile Singapore, which has coped pretty well during the pandemic and has long been touted as one of the main candidate for a travel bubble with Australia and/or New Zealand, is not on the cards just yet.
“Australia as far as I’m aware has not made a decision around Singapore. We haven’t either,” Ardern said.
“It is fair to say they have a different strategy than either of our countries.”
Scott Morrison basically said the same thing at his own press conference shortly after.
“We have looked at places like Singapore, and Japan, and South Korea, and countries like this, but at this stage we are not in a position to move forward on any of those at this point,” he said.
I for one am excited about the travel bubble because I miss my friends… pic.twitter.com/Q50EPVSZrP
— Ella Shepherd (@ellashepston) April 6, 2021
Is Jacinda Ardern gonna visit us?
Ardern said she didn’t have any plans to swing by Australia, however she is discussing potential dates with Scott Morrison for him to visit one of New Zealand’s more popular tourist destinations.
“I’ll be looking to use the opportunity to take prime minister Morrison to an area that has previously enjoyed high levels of international visitors and that we’ll want to put back on the world stage,” she said.
I hope they have fun.