First commercial flight to land in Queenstown in 387 days

Photo: ODT files
Queenstown Airport. Photo: ODT files
Scheduled international passenger flights to the southern South Island resume today with a single flight from Sydney to Queenstown.

Qantas QF121 is scheduled to land at Queenstown Airport at 2.30pm, 387 days since the last commercial passenger flight landed in the resort.

That flight had only a single passenger, but the Airbus A320 arriving today is expected to be carrying more than 100 people.

They will be welcomed inside the terminal by Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult, Southland MP Joseph Mooney and Queenstown Airport board members and executives.

There will be some live entertainment.

The aircraft will take off for Sydney an hour later.

With quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia able to start at 11.59pm yesterday, today’s flight is a milestone in the southern region’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Queenstown Airport corporate and community affairs general manager Sara Irvine said 36 transtasman flights were scheduled to arrive at and depart from the airport during the next week, connecting the resort with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The first international Air New Zealand flight, from Sydney, was scheduled for tomorrow, Ms Irvine said.

The airport was expecting about 40 international flights a week until the airlines begin ramping up capacity in June for the ski season.

Passengers arriving from Australia will have been on flights that do not come into contact with people from other parts of the world.

"Green zone" flights have no passengers who have come from anywhere but Australia in the previous 14 days and are flown by crew who have not been on any high-risk routes for a set period of time.

Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said over the first few weeks of the travel bubble flights between Auckland and Australia would increase 10-fold in a "huge change" from the past year.

"I think there will be tens of thousands of passengers on day one, because we're looking across the first few weeks and seeing flight numbers grow by 10 times to about 400 flights between Auckland and Australia."

Travellers to or from New Zealand will have to complete a pre-departure health declaration and must not have had a positive Covid-19 test result in the previous 14-day period, or be waiting on a Covid-19 test.

Passengers will need to wear masks, be prepared for random temperature checks, and will not be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms.

Both Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they were proud of the achievements made by both countries.

Mr Morrison said the milestone was a "win-win" for Australians and New Zealanders, which would boost both economies while keeping people safe.

"Both countries have done a remarkable job in protecting our communities from Covid and two-way flights are an important step in our road out."

Ms Ardern said it was "truly exciting" to start quarantine-free travel with Australia.

"Be it returning family, friends or holiday makers, New Zealand says welcome and enjoy yourself."

The bubble marked a significant step by both countries, she said.

 — Additional reporting RNZ

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