Air New Zealand is delaying resuming flights on three Queensland routes until next year. On Monday, the Auckland-based airline confirmed it would delay flying Christchurch – Gold Coast, Auckland – Maroochydore, and Auckland – Cairns until March 26, 2022.
Flights to Gold Coast, Maroochydore, & Cairns paused until March
Buoyed by the opening of the quarantine-free travel corridor between New Zealand and Australia, Air New Zealand announced significant upgrades on these routes in June. Normally seasonal services, Auckland – Cairns and Auckland – Maroochydore were to go year-round.
The flight between Christchurch and Gold Coast was a new route, supplementing existing flights into the Queensland holiday hotspot from Auckland. All three routes were operating with assistance from the Queensland Government. Whether the agreement allows Air New Zealand to keep receiving assistance despite not flying is not known.
On Monday, in a schedule update, Air New Zealand quietly pulled the flights. In a good year, half a million Kiwis flee a chilly New Zealand winter for the Queensland beaches. Heading in the opposite direction, 400,000 travelers normally fly out of Queensland to New Zealand.
Travel corridor pause impacts Air New Zealand
With trans-Tasman passenger numbers revving up over May and June while the travel corridor was operating, Air New Zealand was busy building up its already significant presence in Australia. But the travel corridor was “paused” in July, quickly halting nearly all trans-Tasman traffic.
In June, Air New Zealand flew 109,000 passengers to Australia and around the South Pacific. That number fell to 93,000 in July as a result of the late-month travel corridor pause. Passenger numbers for August, not yet available, will be substantially less.
Monday’s news will come as a double blow for Cairns Airport. On the same day, Qantas confirmed a proposed Cairns – Tokyo service would not begin after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission scuttled a proposed joint venture with Japan Airlines.
But with both New Zealand and Australia having axed quarantine-free travel across the Tasman, Air New Zealand’s decision to suspend their Queensland leisure flights isn’t a surprise. Flights to other Australian destinations, including Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane, remain in Air New Zealand’s schedules for the remainder of 2021. However, the likelihood of most of the scheduled flights operating is low.
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Auckland Airport also feeling the pain
Air New Zealand is not the only business feeling the pain of the travel corridor pause. Auckland Airport, New Zealand’s busiest, released its latest traffic figures on Tuesday morning. The airport handled 127,139 international passengers in June, declining to 114,868 international passengers in July. Auckland Airport is tentatively advising it handled 39,606 international passengers in August – a steep drop attributed to the travel corridor pause.
Australia is now starting to reverse its course on its international travel bans. Some travel is now likely to be allowed by the end of 2021. But New Zealand is unlikely to feature on the list of countries initially rolling out the welcome mat. While the situation remains fluid, flights to Singapore, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom now seem likely to restart before flights between New Zealand and Australia.
Air New Zealand says it will re-route passengers booked on its Auckland – Maroochydore flights to Brisbane, 90 minutes drive south of Maroochydore. Air New Zealand will rebook passengers booked on Christchurch – Gold Coast flights to fly via Auckland. The airline is not offering passengers traveling to Cairns alternative flights. Air New Zealand suggests passengers fly to either Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne. From there, passengers can make their own arrangements to fly the final leg to Cairns.