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Transtasman bubble: Qantas roars back with 122 flights a week

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Qantas and Jetstar will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman when the quarantine-free bubble starts.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed today that all the conditions for the bubble have been met and flights would start on April 19.

Qantas Group will fly two new routes into Queensland - Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast - a move that will provide competition to Air New Zealand.

As part of the existing one-way bubble, Qantas Group has been operating less than 3 per cent of its pre-Covid capacity on the Tasman.

Flights announced today will see this increase to 83 per cent - a level that reflected the airline's high level of expected demand for what will be Australia's only international destination for at least the next six months.

While Qantas has surged back, Virgin Australia has delayed a return to the Tasman from June to October.

From April 19, Qantas and Jetstar will initially operate across the Tasman on 15 routes, offering more than 52,000 seats each week.

Qantas Domestic and International chief executive Andrew David said Australia had always had an incredibly close relationship with New Zealand but in the past 12 months it's never felt further away.

"Restarting flights to New Zealand is about more than starting to rebuild our international network, it's about reconnecting families and friends and getting more of our people back flying again," he said.

"Hopefully, stories of missed weddings and birthdays on either side of the ditch will now be a thing of the past.

The airline expected strong demand for flights to New Zealand and there are many Kiwis who can't wait for a winter escape to warmer weather in Australia."

Qantas Frequent Flyer will also boost the number of Classic Reward seats for frequent flyers, making all seats in all cabins across Qantas and Jetstar flights for the first three days available as a Classic Flight redemption.

For the remainder of 2021, frequent flyers will also enjoy access to 50 per cent more Classic Flight Reward seats on Qantas' trans-Tasman routes.

David said capacity was moderated by the fact that international tourists (beyond Australia and New Zealand) normally account for about 20 per cent of the passengers flying between the two countries.

Qantas' schedule includes year-round direct flights to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, including direct flights from Brisbane and Melbourne to Queenstown, routes which Qantas traditionally only operated seasonally for the ski season peak.

A new daily service from the Gold Coast to Auckland will commence when the bubble opens, marking Qantas' first-ever international flights from Gold Coast Airport.

The new Cairns-Auckland route will launch in time for the June long weekend, operating three days per week. Flights will initially operate for nine weeks until late July, and Qantas will look to add more flights beyond this period if there is demand.

Qantas will initially operate a mix of Boeing 737s as well as the wide-body Airbus A330.

Jetstar will initially operate to Auckland from Melbourne, Gold Coast and Sydney using its Airbus A320 aircraft, with schedules of both airlines connecting on to Jetstar's New Zealand domestic network of more than 120 return flights per week to five destinations.

Jetstar will resume flights on the remainder of its pre-Covid routes from the middle of the year.

Qantas and Jetstar will look to grow capacity and the number of routes as the market recovers.

Qantas has also today extended its "Fly Flexible" policy, offering customers who book flights before July 31 added flexibility with unlimited fee-free date changes when travelling before February 28, 2022.

Jetstar offers the option of purchasing FareCredit on bookings which allow passengers to cancel flights for any reason.


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