Auckland International Airport is preparing for trans-Tasman traffic to increase 10 fold on Monday, with the arrival of quarantine-free flights from Australia.
The airport will welcome 400 quarantine-free flights a week, compared to just 36 in the first week of April.
This represents new routes for carriers Air New Zealand, Jetstar and Qantas. There will be new Queensland links to Auckland, from Cairns and the Gold Coast. On April 22, Air New Zealand will return with a direct link to Hobart, the first in more than two decades.
Auckland Airport CEO Adrian Littlewood says it is a hugely emotional day, representing a huge operation and the biggest upheaval to arrivals since September 11, 2001.
“Just like what happened after 9/11, managing COVID-19 has meant new processes in place,” said Littlewood.
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From April 16, all arrivals will be split into two channels, with a separate path for passengers from quarantine-free countries.
“Our terminal separation came into effect today, with all arriving passengers needing to go into managed isolation now being processed in Zone B, our fully separated mini arrivals processing area. This allows us a full three days for the final preparations along the safe arrivals path,” he said.
Zone A will have to wait until 11.20am Monday for its first passengers and the arrival of JQ201 from Sydney.
Airlines with previous trans-Tasman connections – Virgin Australia, LATAM and China Airlines – are yet to announce a return.
The airport’s food and retail outlets have also been decimated. Prior to 2020, there were more than 100 businesses in the international terminal. This has fallen to just 11 tenancies.
The return of passengers from across the ditch will lead to a return of some normalcy, with more shops “scheduled to re-open across the week”.
In 2019, Australian visitors represented 864,000 inbound seats to New Zealand. It has historically been the country’s biggest inbound visitor market.
This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and has been republished with permission