First Australian flight lands in New Zealand since closure of border due to pandemic last year

Natasha Chaku
·3-min read

Melbourne, Apr 19 (PTI) Hundreds of passengers from Australia landed in Auckland on Monday following the implementation of a travel bubble under which New Zealand allowed Australian flights into the country for the first time since the borders were shut in March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first flight took off Monday morning at 7 am (local time) from Sydney airport to Auckland following the opening of the travel bubble which would allow Australians to visit New Zealand without going into quarantine and a permit.

The two sides borders were shut in March last year after the coronavirus started to spread rapidly around the globe however, New Zealanders were allowed to travel to Australia on 'green zone' flights and avoid hotel quarantine since October last year.

From Monday, Australians travelling to New Zealand would be allowed to do the same.

Nirali Johal said she was going to see her partner for the first time in almost two years.

'I couldn't sleep last night, it has been very exciting,' she told the BBC. 'We are just... happy that it has happened and we're able to live a normal life again.' Qantas, Jetstar and Air New Zealand have all announced new routes between the two countries with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to send over 30 flights.

Next in the pipeline are flights from Perth and Gold Coast airports.

To fly in the newly created bubble, passengers must have spent the previous 14 days in either Australia or New Zealand and not have returned a positive COVID-19 test within the same period.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted that the idea to open up borders was to happen cautiously and carefully.

“It will be happening cautiously and carefully, working very hard on the medical and health protections in place because I’m not going to put at risk the way that Australians are living today,” he said.

Two weeks ago, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had announced the arrangement saying: 'Those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so under the guidance of flyer beware.' 'People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak,' she added.

Hundreds of passengers crowded the international departure terminal at Australia's Melbourne Airport early Monday amid long check-in lines.

'This is really the first day in over a year that Australians get to dust off their passports and travel overseas,' Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Lorie Argus said.

Melbourne Airport said it will welcome 19 trans-Tasman flights on Monday, which is equal to approximately 4,000 seats, according to a news release.

Each week, around 140 services will operate between Melbourne and New Zealand, and the number will rise to 180 weekly flights by the end of May, the release added -- around 70 per cent of pre-COVID levels.

Melbourne Airport now offers non-stop flights to four New Zealand destinations: Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Queenstown.

Both Australian and the New Zealand governments imposed strict lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.

New Zealand is among the nations to have reported the least number of cases due to its strong regulation of measures to contain the virus spread.

Australia has so far reported 29,533 cases of coronavirus with 910 deaths while the figure for New Zealand stands at 2,596 cases and 26 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. PTI NC RUP RUP