Two-way travel between Australia and New Zealand is now under way, with close to 15 destinations set to have direct routes to their trans-Tasman neighbours.

On Monday morning, Qantas launched its first quarantine-free international flight to New Zealand, nearly 400 days since international borders first closed.

About 630 Qantas and Jetstar workers will resume normal duties, with the nation's largest airline group servicing 29 flights a week, including a new route between the Gold Coast and Auckland.

Quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand has officially begun. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi
Quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand has officially begun. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said it was a momentous occasion in the nation's recovery from the virus.

"The opening of the two-way travel bubble is fantastic for family and friends who are reuniting after so long apart and for the many jobs which are heavily dependent on tourism," he said.

"It means we'll be able to get more planes back in the sky and more of our people back to work.

Mr Joyce noted the airline had noticed a strong surge in demand for trans-Tasman journeys since the bubble was announced to begin on April 19.

Prior to the pandemic, New Zealand was Australia's second largest source of international visitors.

Qantas's operating schedule is running at 80 per cent capacity compared to its pre COVID-19 levels and is expecting to increase the number of flights once demand increases for the winter ski season.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said it was a momentous occasion in the nation’s recovery from the virus. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said it was a momentous occasion in the nation’s recovery from the virus. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker

"We've seen strong demand since the bubble was announced, with tens of thousands of bookings made in the first few days," Mr Joyce said.

"We've also added more flights to Queenstown to meet expected demand during the peak ski season."

Mr Joyce said once the nation's vaccine rollout was in full swing the airline would look at starting other travel bubbles with nations such as Taiwan, Japan and South Pacific nations.

Qantas is still hopeful the airline will be able to kickstart all of its international flights by October despite setbacks to Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The top boss of the flying kangaroo also said vaccines were likely to be a requirement for international travel, flagging Australia may take an approach like Iceland or Israel where proof of taking a vaccine is needed to enter the respective countries.

Last week there were concerns a new case of COVID-19 in Auckland had cast a cloud over the travel bubble.

The new case was a hotel worker at Auckland's Grand Millennium hotel and a close contact of a hotel security guard who tested positive the week prior.

It was the third case at the hotel in recent weeks after a cleaner tested positive on March 21.

Originally published as 'Momentous occasion' not seen in 400 days



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