Hundreds of flights to New Zealand go on sale
Airlines have been quick off the mark following the announcement of a two-way trans-Tasman bubble between Australia and New Zealand.
Right now, passengers headed to New Zealand are forced to quarantine so there are just a handful of flights traversing the Tasman.
However, the likes of Qantas, Air New Zealand and Jetstar are planning to add scores of extra flights to the schedules from the day the bubble begins, on April 19.
The carriers are even adding a few new destinations in anticipation of a boom in travel between the two nations.
But Virgin Australia will not join the fray and has no plans to start NZ flights for the next few months at least.
"This is an exciting day," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday.
"The trans-Tasman travel bubble represents the start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery, one that people have worked so hard for. That makes New Zealand and Australia relatively unique.
"This is an important step forward in our COVID response and represents an arrangement I do not believe we have seen in any other part of the world," she added.
Air New Zealand has so far given the fullest detail on its new schedule. But all the major airlines have given some idea about how they will react to the bubble.
Here's all the information you need to know about airlines flying across the ditch.
Air New Zealand
The Kiwi carrier has said it will load 24,000 bottles of bubbly on the first quarantine free flights between Australia and New Zealand to celebrate the travel bubble.
Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown will be linked to eight Australian airports, including flights between New Zealand and Hobart for the first time.
Sydney will be the biggest beneficiary going from two flights per week to around 50.
Air New Zealand chief executive officer Greg Foran, himself an Australian, said it was "terrific news" the border was reopening.
"I know Kiwis and Australians have been wanting to reconnect with whanau (family) and friends for a year now and we're incredibly excited to be playing a part in those reunions.
"I'll certainly be digging out my passport for the first time since I joined the airline to head across the ditch to see my family and I'm especially looking forward to meeting some of my grandchildren for the first time."
Air New Zealand will be operating direct flights to the following destinations from the following dates:
-Flights to/from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Gold Coast (all April 19), Adelaide (5 May), Sunshine Coast (28 June), Cairns (29 June), and Hobart (start date to be confirmed).
-Flights to/from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (all April 19).
-Flights to/from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane (all April 19), and Gold Coast (24 April).
-Flights to/from Sydney, Melbourne (both April 19), and Brisbane (5 May).
Air New Zealand's international flexibility policy was recently extended so customers with flights scheduled to depart before 11:59pm on 31 December 2021 have the ability to opt into credit or make a change to the date or time of the flight with change fees waived (fare differences may still apply).
Qantas / Jetstar
The Qantas Group has not given as much detail as Air New Zealand on its upcoming schedule. But it is promising more than 100 services per week across the Tasman Sea.
"Pack your jandals, Kiwi holidays are back," said Qantas on Tuesday.
From 19 April, Qantas and Jetstar will operate 122 return flights per week between Australia and New Zealand on 15 routes.
This will hugely increase the company's trans-Tasman schedule from the current 3 per cent of pre-COVID levels to 83 per cent.
"We know Australians are keen to head overseas again, so we expect strong demand for flights to New Zealand and there are many Kiwis who can't wait for a winter escape to warmer weather in Australia," Qantas Domestic and International chief executive officer Andrew David said.
Two new routes will launch linking Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast, the latter the first ever international Qantas flight from the Queensland holiday spot.
Year-round direct flights to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown will operate including direct flights from Brisbane and Melbourne to Queenstown, routes which Qantas traditionally only operated seasonally for the ski season peak.
Jetstar will initially operate to Auckland from Melbourne, Gold Coast and Sydney. These flights will be timed to connect with Jetstar's domestic New Zealand network which is focused on Auckland.
Jetstar will resume flights on the remainder of its pre-COVID routes from the middle of the year.
Qantas said it would extend its fly flexible policy, offering customers who book flights before July 31, 2021 added flexibility with unlimited fee free date changes when travelling before February 28, 2022. Jetstar offers the option of purchasing FareCredit on bookings which allow passengers to cancel flights for any reason.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Virgin Australia has decided to sit this one out. At least until September.
The carrier, which went bankrupt early on in the pandemic and was subsequently bought out by a US private equity firm, has said adding New Zealand flights is too "complex" at the moment as it focuses on rebuilding its domestic network.
"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 spokesman for the firm said.
"For this reason, we have suspended the sale of most New Zealand services until 31 October 2021."
However, some flights to and from Queenstown will be available for booking from 18 September 2021.
Before the pandemic, there was a whole range of airlines in addition to the big Aussie and Kiwi carriers that offered services across the ditch. These included Emirates and Chile's LAN.
But, for now, they're not doing those short hops. As those planes begin their journey far further afield they wouldn't be part of the bubble anyway.
So if you want to travel trans-Tasman then for at least the next few months it's a choice of Qantas, Jetstar or Air New Zealand only.
Originally published as Hundreds of flights to NZ go on sale