An Air New Zealand Airbus winged its way towards Brisbane on Thursday morning with a planeload of passengers able to skip the usual quarantine requirements. The flight is taking advantage of a current one-way travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand that allows New Zealanders to land, clear immigration, and head straight out to enjoy a sticky 28° Queensland summer’s day.
A step towards normality for Brisbane Airport
Brisbane Airport CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff, yesterday said the flight was a step back to normality. New Zealand is one of Brisbane Airport’s most important international markets. In 2019, there were over 100 flights a week between Brisbane and New Zealand and 1.5 million passengers on them.
“I am very confident that these safe travel zone flights between Queensland and New Zealand will be a success,” said Mr de Graaff.
Throughout much of 2020, Air New Zealand was the only airline linking Brisbane to New Zealand. They’ve operated scaled back services out of Auckland. But passengers on those flights have been subject to standard quarantine arrangements. There were also limits on how many passengers could be on those flights.
But with the one-way travel bubble in place, Air New Zealand can run flights to Brisbane with normal loads and the passengers can bypass the 14-day quarantine time they’d normally undergo.
Air New Zealand will operate a mix of flights to Brisbane
Over January, Air New Zealand will run five return services a week between Auckland and Brisbane. Three of those weekly services will run as “safe travel zone” (no quarantine) flights. They include NZ145 to Brisbane on Saturday, January 9, NZ149 to Brisbane on Monday, January 11, NZ149 on Wednesday, January 13, and NZ 145 on Saturday, January 17. The remaining two weekly services will be subject to standard quarantine rules.
“Anyone who doesn’t travel on a quarantine free flight is still subject to 14 days mandatory quarantine,” said Queensland Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young.
“It is important to recognize the efforts of the State and Federal governments, relevant agencies, Air New Zealand, and the Brisbane Airport team for making this flight happen,” said the Brisbane Airport boss.
Brisbane Airport had hoped to receive the first quarantine free flight from New Zealand before Christmas. However, it took a little longer to organize. Thursday’s flight is the first to arrive in Brisbane under the one-way travel bubble arrangements.
Still a few hurdles to overcome
NZ147 departed Auckland at 08:00 (local time) on Thursday for the 2,300-kilometer flight north-west. The Airbus A320-200 (registered ZK-NHC) touched down in Brisbane just after 08:30 local time.
“While only a one-way ‘bubble,’ we nonetheless expect these flights will bring families back together and support economic activity between New Zealand and our state,” says Mr de Graaf.
While these flights are a step forward, there are still a few hurdles to overcome. Queensland may be welcoming New Zealanders, but New Zealand still requires their own citizens to do 14-days quarantine upon return. Further, the travel-bubble is one way. New Zealand is not yet reciprocating by allowing Australians to skip quarantine upon arrival there.
Consequently, while these additional flights are handy, they will hardly kickstart the rebound of trans-Tasman travel. But Brisbane Airport’s Gert-Jan de Graaff is crossing his fingers for the start of a two-way travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand. That’s still penciled in for a March start date. If that happens, it will significantly boost the passenger numbers at Brisbane Airport’s international terminal.