New Zealand travel bubble could be six months away, Air NZ boss says

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran has shot down the idea of a trans-Tasman bubble until March 2021, at the very earliest.

In fact, he told the Sydney Morning Herald it’s likely to be longer.

“I certainly do not believe we will see anything across the Tasman this calendar year. It’s hard to believe it would be before March next year and could well be longer,” he said.

“If it comes back quicker, we’re going to pop some champagne.”

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A travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand means residents would be able to travel between the countries without a mandatory quarantine period.

But the goal of eliminating COVID-19 was looking increasingly unrealistic, Mr Foran said.

Flights between Australia and New Zealand are at least six months away, the boss of Air New Zealand says. Picture: AFP / Peter ParksSource:AFP

“Elimination, which is a worthy thing to go after, is probably not sustainable based on what we’re now learning, which is the vaccine is not going to be 100 per cent effective, not everybody is going to take it, and it’s going to take years to get distributed,” he said.

Instead countries, like Australia, that exercised “a degree of moderation” of control of the virus, would “probably end up in a better position”, he said.

After hopeful plans of a September launch earlier in the year, the bubble was popped due to rising cases in Victoria, with clusters in NSW and Auckland dashing hopes further.

Speaking to media in August, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the resurgence of COVID-19 in Melbourne last month was a “major step back for trans-Tasman travel”.

“Obviously this is going to be some time away now.”

Air New Zealand chief executive officer Greg Foran. Picture: Hannah Peters/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Australia would need to mark at least 28 days of no community transmission of COVID-19 before the bubble would again be a possibility, she said.

“Anywhere where we have COVID-free travel they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time – that will be some time for Australia.”

“It will be on the back burner for several months.”

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has once again raised the idea, suggesting potential bubbles could be established between regions that have no community transmission of COVID-19.

“For example, the whole of the South Island, that’s an area where there is no COVID,” he said at Friday’s meeting of the Federal Cabinet.

While his first priority was for state borders across Australia to reopen, Mr Morrison last month said he was keen to establish travel opportunities between neighbouring countries.

The Cook Islands has been seeking a travel bubble arrangement with New Zealand.Source:istock

Meanwhile the Cook Islands Government has decided to open its borders up again – but only to Cook Islands nationals, work permit holders and permanent residents stuck in New Zealand.

New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker recently said plans for a Cook Islands travel bubble had been put on hold due to the community outbreak of COVID-19 in Auckland.

But Government officials were continuing “quite successfully” to work through rules to open the borders, in due course.

“I don’t think it’s off the table, (but) it has always been a written term of that agreement that we don’t have community transmission,” Mr Parker told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“If we are going to rely on each other as equivalent to each other, without quarantine or managed isolation, we have to be assured that neither of us have community transmission.

“We were going to start with the Cook Islands but of course that has been delayed because of the cluster in Auckland.”

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