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Australian and New Zealand airports celebrate return of trans-Tasman flights


Airports in Australia and New Zealand have been celebrating the reopening of quarantine free trans-Tasman travel for the first time in 12 months.

In Brisbane, Brisbane Airport opened 16 ‘Green Lane’ services yesterday to accommodate Air New Zealand and Qantas flights between BNE and Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

The airport reports that all eight arrivals and eight departures operated at around 80% capacity with more than 1,600 seats being sold.

Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO, Gert-Jan de Graaff, noted that the ‘travel bubble’ between the two countries is “vitally important as New Zealand is one of Queensland’s most important international markets”.

He added: “Today is an incredible day for the many families and friends who will be able to reunite, but also for the thousands of businesses in Brisbane, the regions, and across Queensland who rely on tourism.

“Brisbane Airport will welcome flights from Christchurch and Wellington for the first time since 28 March 2020, some 387 days, which, for us, it has felt almost as long as the last time the Wallabies won the Bledisloe Cup.”

In 2019, around 1.5 million passengers flew between BNE and New Zealand, with more than 100 flights each week and five airlines operating services to five New Zealand cities (Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, and Queenstown).

Elsewhere in Australia, Perth Airport handled its first flight Auckland under the new safe travel arrangements and Queenstown Airport in New Zealand gave a traditional New Zealand welcome to a flight from Sydney for 387 days.

Passengers who made the journey to Perth direct from Auckland were welcomed by a traditional Aboriginal Welcome to Country, and many excited meeters and greeters ready to be united with loved ones after over a year apart.

Perth Airport CEO, Kevin Brown, has appealed for patience as passengers are still required to undergo government processes upon arrival at the airport.

He said: “Passengers arriving on international flights must have a completed G2G declaration as well as undergo normal border control processes. It’s important that passengers fill out their G2G pass prior to boarding as it will help them to move quickly and efficiently through the terminal on arrival.

“This is a big step for Western Australia’s Covid-19 recovery and it’s essential that we all take the extra time to make sure we’ve got it right.”

Pre-Covid, tourism was a key economic driver in WA, generating more than 100,000 jobs and injecting $12 billion into the Western Australian economy.

Brown added: “We know that the introduction of one new international route can add at least A$70 million to the economy, and this travel bubble provides a massive opportunity for the Western Australian tourism industry which has had been hit significantly by the virus.

“We will be working closely with our airline partner Air New Zealand as passenger numbers increase as demand grows.”

The airport has established a ‘Green Zone’ to facilitate passengers from ports deemed safe by the Australian Government (currently only to passengers from New Zealand) through the inbound journey to the public Arrivals hall.

This includes the separation of ‘Red Zone’ and ‘Green Zone’ Border Control queuing areas/Smart Gate and Baggage Reclaim belts. Red Zone flights (flights arriving from all other international destinations) would only be able to arrive once a Green Zone flight has completed the arrivals process.

In Queenstown, passengers arriving from Sydney were greeted by local kaumatua, Darren Rewi who gave a traditional mihi whakatau (welcome) to the manuhiri (visitors), as well as live music, prizes from more than 95 Queenstown and Wanaka businesses, and entertainment in the airport forecourt.

Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) Chair, Adrienne Young-Cooper said: “It was an emotional moment watching the Qantas flight make its approach to ZQN this afternoon. The region has been hit hard by COVID-19 and Aussie visitors are really important to us.  We welcome them back with open arms.”

While QAC chief executive, Colin Keel, enthused: “We were thrilled to mark the re-opening of the trans-Tasman border and the first quarantine-free flight from Australia to Queenstown Airport with a celebration today.

“More than 80 businesses operate at Queenstown and Wanaka airports; the majority are locally owned and the last year has certainly been tough.

“It goes without saying that many of us in Queenstown, Wanaka and the wider region have been hanging on for the reopening of the border with Australia.  It’s a vital step towards recovery.”

As a trans-Tasman only international airport, Queenstown Airport will only be accepting ‘green zone’ flights and has approved protocols and procedures in place to safely manage the recommencement of direct flights to and from Australia.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our team, airport community and the travelling public remains our highest priority,” noted Keel.

“We have and will continue to have robust health, safety and cleaning protocols in place at Queenstown Airport.”

Prior to COVID-19, 30% of all passenger arrivals and departures at Queenstown Airport were on trans-Tasman flights. In 2019, 716,908 passengers arrived and departed on the direct Australia flights.

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