Australia-New Zealand travel bubble planned to open in early 2021
International travel could be only a few months away.
The New Zealand government has confirmed that it plans to establish a two-way travel bubble with Australia by early 2021.
And yes, we couldn't be happier.
The news comes after months of talks between the two nations to create a trans-Tasman bubble and two months after a one-way travel corridor was created to let Kiwis into most of Australia.
"This gives the chance for New Zealanders or Australians to visit New Zealand, whether it's for friends, family, weddings, funerals, births, holidays, without having to quarantine," said Australian health minister Greg Hunt.
"It is the first step on a return to international normality."
But before you start booking flights, there are a few things you should be aware of.
There's no set border opening date yet
While we do know that early 2021 is the goal, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern hasn't put an exact date on the border reopening quite yet. "It's our intention to name a date for the commencement of trans-Tasman quarantine free travel in the new year, once remaining details are locked down," she said.
Some of those remaining details are dependent on Australia remaining community-transmission free for 28 days.
As of now, the last locally acquired case was on 4 December in NSW, which lines up with Ardern's proposal to pen in a date in January when the 28 days rolls over.
The bubble will likely start in March
While it's true that no date has been given yet, many are saying that the end of March will be the beginning of international travel.
As if in response, Jetstar and Virgin Australia have already jumped on this trend, selling flights between major cities in Australia and New Zealand, including Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown from 28 March 2021.
The starting fares aren't quite as cheap as they were pre-COVID-19, but they're not too dear. For example, tickets on Jetstar from Melbourne to Christchurch are on sale for $219 each way. Earlier in the year, this route was selling for as low as $130 each way.
Naturally, these dates and prices could change depending on how quickly airlines return to the skies and when Ardern gives the green light.
"While services are currently on sale from late March, the decision gives us time to prepare aircraft and crew for re-entry into New Zealand skies. We'll continue to review and adjust our schedule in line with demand and the start dates for quarantine-free travel being worked through by the respective governments," said a Virgin Australia Group spokesman.
There will be contingencies in place in case of an outbreak
Let's face it – we are not out of the woods yet. As such, both countries also need time to put contingencies in place should an outbreak occur while the bubble is open.
"We would need to make arrangements to have potentially thousands of New Zealanders brought back to New Zealand in numbers that we wouldn't be able to facilitate, necessarily [in] managed isolation," said Ardern.
We'll update this article as more details come in.
Things to consider before booking your flight
You're no doubt as excited as we are to start travelling over the ditch again, but before you book those New Zealand flights, here are a few things to consider.
- Flexible flights. As border opening dates aren't set yet, one way to cover yourself in case anything happens between now and March is with flexible flights. These let you change your booking dates without fees. At the moment, Jetstar has a FareCredit option that lets you cancel your booking for a credit voucher for the value of your fare, but there is a fee for this service. Virgin Australia allows for changes on international flights booked before 31 March 2021. Qantas too has extended its Fly Flexible policy for travel until 31 March 2021.
- Travel insurance. International travel insurance won't cover you for any pandemic-related expenses; however, it will still cover you in the event of accident or theft. You can compare your options on our Travel Insurance page.