New Zealand has accelerated its border reopening, with fully vaccinated Australians allowed back in again from April. Travelers from 60 other countries on New Zealand's visa waiver list are allowed in from May 1. The move ends what will be more than two years of self-imposed isolation that has dramatically curbed the number of people traveling to the country and the number of airlines flying there.

New Zealand border restrictions start easing from mid-April

Since Christmas, New Zealand has allowed its own citizens and permanent residents to return home minus the dramas and expense of quarantine and isolation. The country had flagged allowed Australians in mid-year and travelers from elsewhere later in the year. But as other countries dismantled their travel restrictions and border controls without catastrophic consequences, New Zealand risked getting left behind.

From 23.59 (local time) on Tuesday, April 12, Australians will be able to travel to New Zealand without any isolation or quarantine requirements. Two and a half weeks later from 23.59 (local time) on Sunday, May 1, vaccinated travelers from visa-waiver countries such as the large tourist markets of the UK, US, Japan, Germany, Korea, and Singapore, and those with valid visitor visas will be able to arrive. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated on Wednesday morning,

“Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop COVID-19 two years ago. It did the job we needed. But now that we’re highly vaccinated and predicted to be off our omicron peak, it’s now safe to open up.

Homegrown carrier Air New Zealand is one of the big winners from today's decision to fast-forward New Zealand's border reopening. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

New Zealand's airports welcome the accelerated border reopening

It's welcome news for travelers who, for whatever reason, have needed to get into New Zealand. It's also good news for the airlines that still fly into the country and the airports that handle those flights.

New Zealand's biggest airport, Auckland International (AKL), has seen the number of airlines servicing the airport fall from 29 before the pandemic to just 13. Overall, international traveler numbers at the airport have fallen over 90% to 2,900 per day from 30,000 per day before the borders shut. Auckland Airport CEO Carrie Hurihanganui says,

"It’s an incredibly important moment for all of us at Auckland Airport following two years of virtually no international passengers. Allowing eligible travelers to cross freely into New Zealand marks a huge step in our recovery and that of the tourism industry."

China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Fiji Airways, China Southern, Qatar, Qantas, and hometown favorite Air New Zealand are among the airlines offering international flights in and out of Auckland Airport.

Further south, Christchurch Airport (CHC) is gearing up for the return of daily Singapore Airlines flights in June and looking forward to Emirates bringing their A380s back to town. A Christchurch Airport statement reads.

"The speed in which flights are returning over the coming weeks is a huge vote of confidence from our partner airlines."​​​​​​​

New Zealand's airports and airlines are looking forward to a big increase in international passenger numbers after the borders fully reopen. Photo: Getty Images

Flights reboot fast across the Tasman

Following the news, dominant local carrier Air New Zealand added a raft of new flights, particularly to and from Australia over the Easter period. Air New Zealand has been the trans-Tasman go-to airline over the pandemic for flights between New Zealand and its biggest market, Australia.

From 13 April, Qantas and its low-cost offshoot, Jetstar, will operate up to 30 return flights per week across the Tasman on five routes, up from the two return flights a week currently being operated. Prior to COVID, Qantas and Jetstar operated more than 170 return services a week between Australia and New Zealand.

From April 13, Qantas will fly daily from Brisbane (BNE), Melbourne (MEL), and Sydney to Auckland and Sydney to Christchurch with a mix of its Boeing 737s and widebody Airbus A330 aircraft. Qantas International CEO Andrew David said,

"New Zealand was Australia’s second-biggest source of international visitors before the pandemic, and Australians were the biggest source of visitors to New Zealand, so this is an important milestone as part of the recovery for both countries."

Jetstar also rejoins the trans-Tasman fray from April 13 when it restarts thrice-weekly Gold Coast (OOL) - Auckland flights. That will be followed by Jetstar flights to Auckland from Sydney and Melbourne in May with flights to Christchurch, Wellington (WLG), and Queenstown (ZQN) resuming around the same time.

Meanwhile. Virgin Australia, which remains skittish about a return to international flying, had recently deferred a return to New Zealand until November. The airline welcomes the relaxation of international travel restrictions and is eyeing recommencing its Queenstown services in November. A Virgin Australia spokesperson told Simple Flying today,

"Uncertainty around international travel has had a significant impact on travel demand and the recovery of the aviation industry. We continue to review our forward schedule and will provide services in line with demand."

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