Travellers will fly from Australia to New Zealand on 30 flights on Monday as the trans-Tasman bubble officially began overnight – marking a massive milestone in Australia’s roadmap out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the first time in more than a year, Australian travellers can fly to New Zealand without the need to quarantine for a fortnight.
The 30 flights will operate between Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth, Sydney, and Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Air New Zealand has opened its Sydney lounge to all of its trans-Tasman travellers at no extra cost and has set aside 24,000 bottles of champagne to celebrate the occasion.
Qantas has reopened its first class international lounge to business class, Qantas Cub members and Gold status frequent flyers.
The first quarantine-free flight – a Jetstar service to Auckland – started its journey across the ditch from Sydney at 6.15am local time.
Kiwi traveller Sarah-Jayne Montgomery said the start of quarantine-free travel finally meant she and her other half Matt could be together in New Zealand.
Passengers check-in for Air New Zealand flight number 246 to Wellington. The Australia-New Zealand trans-Tasman bubble opened at midnight on Monday morning
Kiwi traveller Sarah-Jayne Montgomery was separated from her other half Matt for 13 months during the border closure between Australia and New Zealand during the height of the pandemic
Ms Montgomery enjoys a glass of sparkling wine as she prepares to fly across the ditch. Air New Zealand has opened its Sydney lounge to all of its trans-Tasman travellers at no extra cost and has set aside 24,000 bottles of champagne to celebrate
‘It’s definitely been a long journey that’s finally coming to an end,’ she told the Today show.
‘I made the decision to come over four weeks ago and thankfully got to miss quarantine (as part of the one-way travel bubble). Now he gets to come home with me.’
Before she arrived in Australia a month ago, the couple had spent 13 months apart.
A welcome party including a large banner and live music will greet the first Air New Zealand flight when it lands in Wellington at 1pm.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s relaxation of border rules comes six months after Australia started opening up to Kiwi travellers – a move started by NSW and the Northern Territory which now extends to all states and mainland territories.
In a joint statement, Ms Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the wider Pacific region was the next goal for quarantine-free travel.
‘Australia and New Zealand are also exploring opportunities to extend quarantine-free travel to other countries in the Pacific, when it is safe to do so, reflecting our close ties to the Pacific and our commitment to supporting their recovery,’ the statement read.
Passengers Cini Tuwairua and Sam Boyajian prepare to take Air New Zealand flight number 246 bound for Wellington
Passengers check-in for Air New Zealand flight number 246 to Wellington – scheduled to leave Sydney at 7.45am on Monday. The first quarantine-free flight from Australia took off from Sydney but is understood only to have had crew on board
Passengers check-in for Air New Zealand flight number 246 at Sydney Airport. The Australian and Kiwi government said they were looking at expanding quarantine-free travel to the wider Pacific region ‘when it is safe to do so’
A Qantas flight earlier touched down in New Zealand just 41 minutes after the trans-Tasman travel bubble opened at 11.59pm on Sunday.
The first quarantine-free flight from Australia took off from Sydney on Sunday night and was initially due to land at 12.05am in Auckland.
The Qantas flight is understood to have been repositioned in New Zealand and only had crew on board.
Flight Radar 24 listed a Qantas A330 arriving at 12.05am – six minutes after the border opened. However the flight wasn’t displayed on Auckland Airport’s arrivals, and arrived 35 minutes after schedule.
A Qantas flight touched down in New Zealand just 41 minutes after the trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia opened at 11.59pm on Sunday
A different plane, a Qantas 737, was seen leaving Sydney Airport for New Zealand’s North Island late on Sunday evening, but Flight Radar 24 didn’t have a destination listed.
Meanwhile, airlines across Australia and New Zealand are preparing for chaos when the first passenger flights take off across the ditch on what’s been dubbed ‘Massive Monday’.
National cabinet is now faced with the task of plotting how international borders can ease further in the coming months.
But Scott Morrison is in no rush to lift international restrictions when the COVID-19 pandemic is raging around the world.
The global death toll from coronavirus has now topped three million people and the prime minister said issues around borders and how they are managed will be handled very carefully.
‘But the idea on one day that everything just opens, that is not how this will happen,’ Mr Morrison told reporters on Sunday.
‘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.’
The national cabinet will meet on Monday, the first of twice-weekly gatherings following the vaccine rollout being thrown into disarray after health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people over the age of 50 after blood-clotting was linked to younger people.
From April 19, Kiwis and Aussies can travel freely between the two nations without being required to quarantine
Included in discussions will be changes to Australia’s vaccination policy, including state vaccination implementation plans, in the wake of the new advice around the AstraZeneca vaccine and additional supplies of Pfizer doses.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the vaccine rollout has been a ‘debacle’.
‘Scott Morrison has had more than a year to prepare for the rollout of the vaccine but what we have is him giving up on the timetable, giving up on telling Australians what they want to know,’ he told reporters in Hobart.
‘Australians want to know when they’ll be vaccinated.’
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is approaching 1.5 million vaccinations after some 330,000 jabs were completed in the past week.
From Wednesday, Victorians aged over 70 will be able to get jabbed at a vaccine centre without an appointment as the state prepares to scale up its rollout
He said GPs continue to be the cornerstone of the program but national cabinet will consider ways states and territories can assist with larger vaccination clinics.
From Wednesday, Victorians aged over 70 will be able to get jabbed at a vaccine centre without an appointment as the state prepares to scale up its rollout.
‘We’ve worked around the clock to find solutions to get vaccines in people’s arms as quickly and safely as possible,’ Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, who is in the heat of an election campaign, is concerned about the delays and lack of communication from the federal government about the vaccine rollout at disability and aged care residential facilities.
‘We are in a good place but we cannot afford to go backwards,’ he said in a statement.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is approaching 1.5 million vaccinations after some 330,000 jabs were completed in the past week
Scott Morrison is in no rush to lift international restrictions when the COVID-19 pandemic is raging around the world
A woman who died from blood-clotting last week was the third case linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The first two cases are still in hospital.
The nation’s chief nurse Alison McMillan recognises there could be hesitancy in being vaccinated, but encourages anyone with concerns to talk to their health professional, GP or nurse practitioner.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, who was until recently the minister for science and technology, did offer some hope for vaccine support in the future.
She says Australia has the capability to manufacture an mRNA type COVID-19 vaccine like Pfizer’s, but is currently not able to produce it at scale.
The Pfizer vaccine is recommended for people under 50, a treatment which the government has secured a further 20 million doses, but they won’t arrive until late in the year.
Ms Andrews said it is ‘absolutely’ possible Australia could manufacture an mRNA vaccine, and that work is already under way to try and make possible its production at scale.