UPDATE 19 April 2021 | The long-awaited travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand is now open for business. It promises quarantine-free travel between the two countries, as long as there are no further outbreaks of COVID-19 cases.
Point Hacks is travelling on the first Qantas flight out of Sydney on 19 April 2021 to bring you some fresh flight and lounge reviews in the coming days!
Our first impressions of trans-Tasman travel
Our experience of the ‘green zone’ flights was positive – overall, it’s business as usual. We experienced some additional questioning at check-in, which is designed to check whether passengers have the appropriate documentation in place and aren’t feeling ill.
When leaving Australia, you can proceed through the automated immigration gates as usual. Be sure to remove your mask when the photo is being taken, or you may need to join a line for manual verification.
Upon arrival in New Zealand, you’ll be funnelled through dedicated paths from the gate to border control, separate from non-green zone flight arrivals. From there, you’ll be free to start enjoying your travels or meeting your loved ones!
How will the travel bubble with New Zealand work?
Recently, the Australian Federal Government amended Australia’s travel ban legislation. It means that you’ll no longer need an exemption to travel to New Zealand.
To be eligible to travel on these ‘green zone’ flights, you must have:
- Not be awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test
- Spent the last 14 days in Australia or New Zealand only
- Not had a positive COVID-19 test in the last 14 days
- Not be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
Be sure to also submit a New Zealand Travel Declaration before departure and an Australia Travel Declaration before your return. Also check individual state or territory requirements for re-entry, such as Western Australia which also requires a G2G Pass application.
Passengers on a ‘green zone’ flight will only be travelling with others who have only been within New Zealand or Australia, and will not come into contact with travellers arriving from other parts of the world. You’ll also have to wear masks, download the New Zealand contact tracing app, and provide contact details while in New Zealand.
Be prepared for sudden border changes
However, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Arden warned travellers to be aware that disruptions to travel plans may still occur, particularly if a COVID-19 outbreak is detected. If this were to occur, one of four outcomes could be implemented:
- Monitor symptoms on return
- Take a COVID-19 test on departure
- Isolate at home on arrival, or
- Go into managed isolation for up to 14 days
New Zealand and Australia may pause travel bubble arrangements on a state-by-state basis. New Zealand’s airports will have green and red zones to separate Australian arrivals from travellers from other countries who still have to go through hotel quarantine in New Zealand.
At least initially, travellers will not need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to jump on a plane to or from New Zealand under the travel bubble arrangement.
Air New Zealand readies daily flights, plenty of reward seats
In a further sign that the trans-Tasman travel bubble is brewing, Air New Zealand has quietly reinstated many direct flights between Australia and New Zealand, starting from mid-April 2021.
Even better, rare Business Class reward seats are readily available on those routes, if you’re game enough to jump ahead of the queue and book.
For example, Perth to Auckland sees almost a daily flight schedule from 19 April 2021 onwards, with most days seeing at least four Business Class seats onboard the airline’s Boeing 787s.
Book using the miles of Star Alliance partners such as United MileagePlus, Avianca LifeMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer for an excellent deal! (The images below are from MileagePlus, where Perth to Auckland in Business Class is only 27,500 miles + A$115 taxes.
Or, if you have access to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles from American Express Membership Rewards, then it will only take 15,000 miles for a one-way Business Class ticket, for any Australia-New Zealand flight! That’s an absolute no-brainer, particularly from Perth and Adelaide.
Qantas will make every seat a reward seat for three days
For the first three days of the Trans-Tasman bubble launching, Qantas will make every seat on every flight to and from New Zealand available as a Classic Flight Reward.
That means if you have Qantas Points, you can take advantage of fixed-rate flight rewards in Economy and Business Class! Most Trans-Tasman flights between New Zealand and the east coast of Australia have the same points cost:
- 18,000 Qantas Points + taxes, one-way Economy Class flight
- 41,500 Qantas Points + taxes, one-way Business Class flight
Note that taxes apply per flight and per passenger. From Sydney to Auckland, this is A$162 in all classes, which is quite costly. Considering you can often get a return cash ticket to New Zealand for under $400, it does not make sense to spend 18,000 points + A$162 for the same seat.
Virgin Australia holds back on New Zealand flights
Virgin Australia is taking a pragmatic approach to the trans-Tasman bubble, and will not recommence flights until 31 October 2021, with the exception of some limited flights to Queenstown commencing 18 September 2021. A spokesperson for Virgin confirmed to Point Hacks that the airline was looking to focus on domestic Australian travel for now, given the fluidity of domestic border requirements and the impact that has on the airline’s reduced fleet size.
While the airline remains committed to Trans-Tasman flying when the market fully recovers, we are mindful of evolving border requirements which add complexity to our business as we push ahead with plans to grow our core domestic Australia operations.
For this reason, we have suspended the sale of most New Zealand services until 31 October 2021. A limited schedule for flights to and from Queenstown will remain available for booking from 18 September 2021.– Virgin Australia spokesperson, 6 April 2021
Passengers booked on Virgin’s trans-Tasman services from June 2021 (which will no longer be operating until at least 31 October 2021), have three options at present:
- take a full refund to the original form of payment
- change their travel dates to an alternate Virgin Australia flight where available
- be re-accommodated on Air New Zealand
If you haven’t already, now is the time to book your flights to New Zealand! Be sure to check for any entry requirements, and be sure you’re aware that there’s still the chance the bubble could temporarily close if an outbreak happens.
This article was co-written with Chris Cavanagh