As Australia and New Zealand are preparing to open a two-way travel bubble, Qantas and Air New Zealand are ramping up flights.

Starting from April 19, 2021, Australia and New Zealand will open a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble, permitting air travel between the two countries once again. The countries shut their borders in March 2020. Since October 2020, Australia has reopened its borders to New Zealanders but New Zealand is only returning the favor now.  

In response to the news, the biggest airlines across the Tasman Sea ramped up flights on the two-way bubble to most of the pre-pandemic level.

Qantas Airways to reinstate 83% of Australia-New Zealand flights

Qantas and its low-cost arm Jetstar are restarting flying to all pre-COVID destinations in New Zealand and launching two new routes direct from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast. In total, both airlines plan to operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes starting from April 19, 2021, Qantas outlined in a statement.

The reinstated flights amount to 83% of pre-COVID capacity on the Trans-Tasman. In comparison, the airline has been operating less than 3% of its pre-COVID capacity as part of the existing one-way bubble.

The high number of reinstated flights “reflects a high level of expected demand for what will be Australia’s only international destination for at least the next six months, moderated by the fact that international tourists (beyond Australia and New Zealand) normally account for about 20% of the passengers flying between the two countries,” according to the statement.

“Qantas and Jetstar will look to grow capacity and the number of routes as the market recovers,” the statement read.

Air New Zealand is loading bubbles as it prepares for “reuniting Kiwis and kangaroos”

Air New Zealand said it would ramp up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports starting from April 19, 2021.

The airline said it was preparing for the travel bubble “for a few months now” by bringing back furloughed crew, reviewing crews’ training, and making sure airports and lounges were ready for returning passengers, it outlined in a statement.

"Pre-COVID-19, Australia was the largest tourism market for both our airline and New Zealand. We know a lot of tourism operators have been feeling the lack of international visitors so we're looking forward to playing a role in New Zealand's recovery,” Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran explained in a statement.

In celebration of what is calls an upcoming reuniting of Kiwis and kangaroos, the airline is pre-loading the bubbles - 24,000 bottles - for customers onboard its first quarantine-free flights, as outlined in the statement.

Virgin Australia not to reinstate Trans-Tasmanian flights right away

Reacting to the news about the Trans-Tasman two-way air travel bubble, Virgin Australia called the decision a “step in the right direction”. However, the airline will not be reinstating most of its flights to New Zealand until October 31, 2021, it outlined in a statement. Only a “limited schedule” will remain available from September 18, 2021.

“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,” the statement read.

The airline has suspended its services to New Zealand in March 2020. Virgin Atlantic went into voluntary administration in April 2020. The struggling airline was bought by Bain Capital, which announced a turnaround plan 'Virgin Australia 2.0'. In November 2020, Jayne Hrdlicka replaced Paul Scurrah as the airline’s CEO.