Canberra Airport is hoping to be included in the selected ports for the new two-way trans-Tasman air bubble, announced by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday (6 April).
It is believed that services will commence initially to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, but Canberra Airport has been working behind the scenes with governments and airlines for months to be part of any Australia-NZ arrangement.
CEO Stephen Byron has said Canberra’s COVID-safe record made it the perfect choice to be a port of departure and arrival for trans-Tasman travel, for which there was huge pent-up demand.
He told Region Media that the Airport was looking at two destinations in the North Island.
“We believe that New Zealand will open to Australia on a state-by-state basis, and given the ACT’s impeccable response to the pandemic, we would hope to be a consideration for the New Zealand Government,” Mr Byron said.
“We are continuing discussions with Qantas and Air New Zealand, and we remain hopeful there is an opportunity to commence services between Canberra and Auckland or Canberra and Wellington.”
Many Canberrans, deprived of overseas travel for more than a year, will jump at the chance of a New Zealand holiday, not to mention New Zealanders wanting to see family again after being grounded in Australia by the pandemic.
Last December, Mr Byron said the Airport was ready to roll with the airlines and had approvals in place with Australian Border Force for the operation of the terminal for New Zealand arrivals.
“All we need is the permission,” he said.
Chief Minister and Tourism Minister Andrew Barr said quarantine-free travel was a welcome outcome.
“The ACT Government has been involved in ongoing discussions with relevant aviation partners on Canberra-New Zealand flights,” he said.
Ms Ardern said Australian travellers would be allowed to enter NZ without mandatory hotel quarantine from 19 April, but she warned people to be prepared to have their travel plans changed at short notice if there is an outbreak, including landing and going into hotel quarantine.
Anyone flying into New Zealand will go through a “green zone” in airports and be kept separate from other people flying in from around the world.
Qantas and Jetstar will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman to all pre-COVID NZ destinations, as well as two new routes direct from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast.
The Australian Airports Association said the long-awaited two-way travel bubble would provide a much-needed boost to the aviation and tourism sectors and help to increase the confidence of potential travellers.
Chief Executive James Goodwin said the new arrangement would allow Australians and New Zealanders to reconnect.
“We can expect to see a lot of emotional scenes at our airports in two weeks with many families and friends reunited after not seeing each other for more than a year,” Mr Goodwin said.
“Our consumer research suggests Australians are eager to get on an aircraft and start travelling again with almost 80 per cent of Australians supportive of creating travel bubbles with countries where levels of COVID-19 are low.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was tremendous that the bubble would be open in time for Anzac Day.
He said the bubble would mean more jobs and be a boost for the struggling travel industry.
The one-way bubble from New Zealand to Australia that began last October is still in place.