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Restoring travel between Australia and New Zealand before Covid for the next week has been dubbed “Monumental Monday” as airlines, airports and travelers prepare for the Trans-Tasman Bubble.
“It’s the first day of our revitalization,” said Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said.
AAP reports that Air New Zealand will operate 30 flights over the Tasman on Monday, carrying over 5,000 people.
Qantas has scheduled 25 flights, with another four from Jetstar, after the New Zealand government lifted quarantine restrictions on Australian travelers.
Virgin Australia has opted not to resume trans-Tasman travel for the next five months, citing the uncertainty of future COVID outbreaks that will result in short-term flight cancellations.
For Air New Zealand, the chance to get back to the skies on their major international routes is a huge relief.
The national airline operated a largely domestic network over the past year, laying off thousands of workers as it got used to living in a pandemic.
Last week it announced the extension of a loan facility with the New Zealand government to $ 1.5 billion ($ 1.39 billion) and the postponement of a planned capital-raising program.
Foran, who joined Air NZ last February on the eve of the border closings, sees Monday as a reset.
“The accumulation of the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble and the start of the Kiwi school vacation created a real sense of dynamism and energy,” said the American.
Air New Zealand’s 30 flights on Monday will be scaled to more than 300 per week over a three-month period.
This includes a new Auckland-Hobart route, which for the first time in nearly three decades offers international flights to Tasmania.
Auckland and Wellington airports are hosting welcome parties for their first trans-Tasman arrivals on Monday.
The first quarantine-free flight to Aotearoa is a Jetstar flight from Sydney that lands in Auckland before noon.
The restoration of flights has an unfortunate consequence for some Kiwis.
The start of flights without quarantine or “green zone” from Australia has led to the end of quarantine flights with “red zone” over the Tasman.
This means that overseas kiwis have fewer opportunities to get home, travel through Doha, Dubai or Singapore, or obtain special permission to be fully quarantined in Australia.
A New Zealand State Department spokesman told Stuff news agency that the government was working with Australian counterparts “to find a possible solution.”