Air NZ suspends trans-Tasman flights as Australia responds to Auckland Covid-19 'hotspot'

Air New Zealand has suspended trans-Tasman flights after Australia imposed border restrictions for arriving New Zealanders due to recent Covid-19 community cases in Auckland.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline had suspended quarantine-free services to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane until Sunday following new border rules set by Australia’s state and federal governments regarding anyone who has been in Auckland recently.

“Once more information is known about current restrictions, we will update our schedule and customers accordingly.”

As of Thursday evening the airline had cancelled three Auckland-Sydney services, two Auckland-Melbourne services and three Auckland-Brisbane quarantine free services. More cancellations are showing through to Monday, taking the total number of cancellations to at least 15.

Air New Zealand’s website shows Auckland-Sydney fares are not available until March 11, Auckland-Melbourne fares are not available until March 13 and Auckland-Brisbane fares are not available until March 20.

Australia’s Department of Home affairs says as of Thursday any traveller from New Zealand who has been in Auckland (except for transit through the airport from a connecting flight) for any period over the previous 14 days, is not eligible to travel on a “green” (quarantine-free) flight.

The restrictions come after several more community cases of Covid-19 in Auckland were detected.

The Queensland Government says following increased community transmission in New Zealand, it had removed New Zealand as a “safe travel country”.

As of Wednesday evening all green flights from New Zealand to Queensland “will stop immediately” and anyone who is permitted to travel to Queensland from New Zealand will be required to quarantine on arrival.

It was also recommending all travellers who had been in New Zealand on or since February 21, to get tested and isolate.

The New South Wales Government has declared Auckland a hotspot and stopped green flights from Auckland.

Anyone who arrived from Auckland after 12:01am on Thursday must go directly to a quarantine facility, it says.

The Victoria Government says as of Wednesday all flights arriving from Auckland into Victoria will be regarded as “red zone” and arriving passengers will be required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days.

The Air New Zealand spokeswoman said customers were being contacted to discuss re-booking options and would have their fares held in credit.

“We understand this brings another layer of uncertainty for our customers and hope to connect them back to Australia as soon as we can.”

New Zealanders have been able to travel to Australia without having to quarantine on arrival since October however, the arrangement has been suspended on several occasions due to Covid-19 flare-ups in New Zealand.