MIAMI – Air New Zealand (NZ) confirmed it will not be operating any flights between Australia and New Zealand across the Tasman Sea until March 2021, dashing the hopes of a “trans-Tasman bubble” connecting the countries.

“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” stated NZ CEO Greg Foran who continued “If it comes back quicker, we’re going to pop some champagne.”

Flights across the Tasman are the busiest in and out of Australia with NZ carrying a third of the 7.8 million passengers who made the journey last year.

New Zealand, having declared the virus eliminated within its borders in June, was force to ease some restrictions back into place in August. Foran additionally states that when international travel does return it will be “clunkier” with rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers before and after flights along with enhanced tracking and tracing.

A321neo Air New Zealand takeoff. Photo: Air New Zealand

An International Business

International travel, especially the trans-Tasman routes, is crucial to NZ, forming two-thirds of earnings for the airline. In comparison, international travel constitutes one-third of earnings for Australian rival Qantas (QF).

Boeing 777 aircraft from the long haul fleet are already being moved into storage while there is talk of delaying an order for eight Boeing 787 aircraft.

There is, however, hope for NZ, albeit in a smaller and more domestically focused form for now with domestic flights operating at 85% capacity. “There is pent up demand – people are cabin crazy and they want to get out,” further states CEO Greg Foran.

Featured image: Air New Zealand