The restoration of pre-COVID travel between Australia and New Zealand that begins within days has been labelled “monumental Monday” as airlines, airports and travellers gear up for the trans-Tasman bubble.
“It’s day one of our revival,” Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said.
Air New Zealand will have 30 flights across the Tasman on Monday, carrying more than 5000 people.
Qantas has scheduled 25 flights, with another four from Jetstar, following the New Zealand government’s lifting of quarantine restrictions for Australian travellers.
Only Virgin Australia is steering clear of the renewed rush of flights. It has opted against resuming trans-Tasman travel until at least October, citing the uncertainty of future COVID outbreaks that will mean flight cancellations on short notice.
For Air New Zealand, the chance to return to the skies for its most important international routes is a blessed relief.
The national carrier has operated a largely domestic network for the past year, laying off thousands of workers as it adjusted to life in a pandemic.
Last week it announced an extension of a loan facility with the NZ government to $NZ1.5 billion ($A1.39 billion), and a deferring of a planned capital raising program.
Mr Foran, who joined Air NZ in February 2020 – on the eve of border closures – is eyeing Monday as a reset.
“The accumulation of the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble and the start of the Kiwi school holidays has created a real sense of momentum and energy,” the American said.
Air New Zealand’s 30 flights on Monday will scale up to more than 300 a week within three months.
That includes a new Auckland-Hobart route, which will international flights to Tasmania for the first time in almost three decades.
Auckland and Wellington airports will throw welcome parties for their first trans-Tasman arrivals on Monday.
The first quarantine-free flight to land in New Zealand will be a Jetstar service from Sydney, landing before lunchtime in Auckland.
The restoration of flights has an unfortunate consequence for some Kiwis.
The beginning of quarantine-free, or “green zone”, flights from Australia has led to the end of quarantine “red zone” flights across the Tasman.
That means Kiwis further abroad have fewer options to get home and must transit through Doha, Dubai or Singapore or get special approval to complete quarantine in Australia.
A NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told news outlet Stuff the government was working with its Australian counterparts “to find a possible solution”.