Air New Zealand’s CEO, Greg Foran, has moved to hose down speculation of an imminent trans-Tasman travel bubble. The on-again-off-again travel corridor was on again over the weekend amid sharply declining COVID numbers in the Australian state of Victoria. But travelers with itchy feet on both sides of the Tasman Sea had hopes dashed on Monday morning. Mr Foran said in an interview that he doesn’t see a travel corridor between the two countries happening until March 2021 at the earliest.
“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,” Mr Foran told Patrick Hatch of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Traffic on busy international corridor slashed
Flights across the Tasman are usually the busiest international sectors in and out of Australia and New Zealand. Nearly eight million people make the short flight each year. COVID-19 put the brakes on those flights, with only Air New Zealand operating a pared-back service. But with both countries seeming to be getting on top of COVID-19 by mid-2020, there was much talk of a travel corridor.
However, a second wave of COVID in Victoria centered on Melbourne, and a smaller outbreak around Auckland saw prospects of a travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand fade.
Melbourne has been enduring a harsh, city-wide lockdown that’s now having dramatic effects. There were just 11 new cases reported in Melbourne on Sunday, down from 700 plus highs in early August. Elsewhere in Australia and around New Zealand, low to no COVID cases are getting reported. That’s been enough to get people talking again about a travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand.
Trans Tasman travel bubble talk boosted last week
That included Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who resurrected prospects of travel between certain regions late last week.
For example, the whole of the (New Zealand) South Island, that’s an area where there is no COVID,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference after a National Cabinet Meeting on Friday.
Mr Morrison confirmed that a travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand remained under active discussion. Comments like that raised expectations of a possible relaxation in border controls between the two countries sooner rather than later.
But the bosses of both Air New Zealand and Qantas, the two key carriers on the trans-Tasman routes, aren’t getting onboard the bandwagon.