In a media conference, Ms Ardern revealed the trans-Tasman bubble will start from 11.58pm on Sunday, 18 April.
She said New Zealand would maintain the travel bubble by considering Australia as another region, whereby any future COVID outbreaks would see restrictions reintroduced on a state-by-state basis (see diagram).
“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,” Ms Ardern said.
“If, however, 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.
“And if we saw multiple cases of unknown origin, we would likely suspend flights for a set period of time.”
Airlines react to travel bubble
Qantas and Jetstar announced that, from 19 April, it will initially operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes.
The Qantas schedule includes year-round direct flights to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown including direct flights from Brisbane and Melbourne to Queenstown, routes which Qantas traditionally only operated seasonally for the ski season peak.
Further, a new daily service from the Gold Coast to Auckland will commence when the bubble opens, marking Qantas’ first-ever international flights from Gold Coast Airport.
Jetstar will initially operate to Auckland from Melbourne, Gold Coast and Sydney, with schedules of both airlines connecting on to Jetstar’s New Zealand domestic network of more than 120 return flights per week to five destinations.
Further, Jetstar will resume flights on the remainder of its pre-COVID routes from the middle of the year.
Qantas Domestic and International chief executive Andrew David said Australia has always had an incredibly close relationship with New Zealand, but in the past 12 months, it’s never felt further away.
“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,” Mr David said.
“Hopefully, stories of missed weddings and birthdays on either side of the ditch will now be a thing of the past.”
However, Virgin Australia said while the travel bubble is a step in the right direction, it has suspended the sale of most New Zealand services until 31 October.
Meanwhile, a limited schedule for flights to and from Queenstown remains available for booking from 18 September.
“While the airline remains committed to trans-Tasman flying when the market fully recovers, we are mindful of evolving border requirements which add complexity to our business as we push ahead with plans to grow our core domestic Australia operations,” a Virgin Australia Group spokesperson said.
“We are working with Air New Zealand to provide impacted customers with alternative options and will be contacting them directly. In all cases, options to select new travel dates with Virgin Australia or obtain a refund to the original form of payment are being made available.”
Source: NZ government