It’s the border reopening Australians have been waiting for — but after months of anticipation the reality could be more of a whimper than a bang.
The trans-Tasman travel bubble will open on Friday, when the first flight from New Zealand arrives in Australia.
Under the deal between the two nations, New Zealanders will be allowed to travel quarantine-free into NSW and the Northern Territory if they have not been in a COVID-19 hot spot in the previous 14 days.
Australians will be able to travel across the ditch at a later, still undetermined date.
The bubble will finally allow New Zealanders to reunite with Australian family and friends or enjoy their first overseas holiday since March without having to quarantine on arrival.
But they will still have to complete 14 days of quarantine when they return to New Zealand, at a personal cost of around $NZ3100 ($2900) per person, which seems to have dulled interest in making the trans-Tasman trip.
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As well as that, the official advice from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains that New Zealanders should avoid all overseas travel due to COVID-19.
Mandatory quarantine for returning Kiwis was “understandably a massive deterrent”, New Zealand Flight Centre’s head of product Victoria Courtney told Stuff.co.nz.
She said there had been a “small increase in leisure bookings” to Australia but the bubble was most likely to benefit New Zealanders who need to come here for emergencies or major events, as well as Australian-based Kiwis currently in New Zealand who wanted to go home.
Air New Zealand told Stuff.co.nz it had seen a “small” increase in bookings to Sydney since the travel bubble was announced on October 2.
The start of the travel bubble coincides with a renewed push for Kiwis to holiday at home this summer, with the national carrier this week launching domestic fares for less than $60 to entice people to travel locally.
However, Ms Courtney from Flight Centre said the one-way travel bubble was “a start” and offered a “bit of hope” to the struggling tourism sector.
Sydney Airport is expecting around 200 New Zealanders to arrive on the first flight across the ditch on Friday.
“We haven’t welcomed people to Sydney in months that haven’t had to come through customs and go straight on to buses to hotel (quarantine),” Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Cuthbert told today’s AFR National Infrastructure Summit in Sydney.
New Zealand passengers who touch down in Australia will be kept separate from returning travellers from other countries, who still need to complete hotel quarantine on arrival.
Mr Cuthbert also told the summit Sydney Airport was operating at a staggering 97 per cent below capacity until South Australia and the Northern Territory opened its borders to interstate travellers.
Now the airport capacity is 93 per cent — and if Queensland opened to NSW the airport would be a mere 83 per cent lower, the airport boss said.
— with Benedict Brook.