Air New Zealand hints at Trans-Tasman bubble start date

Christchurch: Air New Zealand appears to have taken a punt on when the much-anticipated trans-Tasman travel bubble will open, significantly increasing its schedule on one particular Monday in April.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to announce at 4pm on Monday, NZ time, (2pm AEST) when two-way quarantine-free travel with Australia will commence. It is the first border opening since free-flow travel was stopped just over a year ago.

Air New Zealand appears to be prepared for a Trans-Tasman bubble to be operational shortly.Credit:istock

Air New Zealand has an increased schedule in its booking system from Monday, April 19. It has 23 return services between Auckland and Sydney that week, as opposed to just four return flights this current week.

A further clue can be found in the aircraft it has listed to operate on the Auckland to Sydney route.

The airline runs 787 Dreamliners across the Tasman, but has publicly said it has retrained staff on its A320 and A321 planes to run Tasman services. The first A321 flight gets underway on April 19.

If the schedule holds true, Air New Zealand is clearly expecting a surge in people wanting to spend a weekend in Sydney – the first Friday of its expanded schedule has five flights to Sydney in a single day.

The first direct flights from Wellington and Christchurch to Sydney are also loaded in its system from April 19.

The first direct flight from Queenstown to Sydney resumes a day later.

Significantly, the airline also appears poised to bring back direct services from Auckland to Perth, with flights currently offered from April 19.

It is also banking on some Kiwis taking advantage of the current one-way travel rule into Australia and heading there as soon as possible – before returning when the border is opened on the New Zealand side.

From Friday April 9, the airline has daily services into Melbourne and Sydney. If the April 19 start date is confirmed, that means a passenger from New Zealand could head quarantine-free to Sydney on April 9 for a 10-day trip, then return on the 19th once the border on the New Zealand side opens.

It’s not clear if Air New Zealand has official intelligence or it has just taken an educated guess. To be clear, booking a ticket before an announcement of the official date is risky – especially if the date is wrong. Stuff has previously reported the bubble would open in mid-April and the airline appears to have eyed April 19 for some weeks. Air New Zealand has been approached for comment.

Qantas and Jetstar do not have any April flights loaded into their booking systems – although that will almost immediately change once today’s announcement is made.

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