According to Air New Zealand, once a trans-Tasman bubble is created, non-stop flights between Auckland and Tasmania will be available.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed international air travel at the start of 2020, the Auckland-Hobart route is the airline’s first new international passenger service.
The service will run twice weekly during the year, with tickets going on sale as soon as quarantine-free travel across the Tasman becomes affordable.
Leanne Geraghty, Air New Zealand’s chief customer and sales officer, said it would be the first time the airline had flown between New Zealand and Tasmania since the Christchurch-Hobart service ended in 1998.
The new route was based on a final contract agreement as well as regulatory and government approval. The route will be operated by Air New Zealand’s A320neo aircraft.
Winston Peters, the former deputy prime minister, proposed a state-by-state trans-Tasman bubble, beginning with Tasmania, in June.
Then, in November, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced plans for 130 direct flights a year between Hobart and New Zealand, with the federal government contributing A$50 million (NZ$54 million) and the state government contributing A$10 million for infrastructure improvements.
Greg Foran, CEO of Air New Zealand, expects the route to cater to both New Zealanders and Tasmanians.
“This route will be a much-needed economic boost for New Zealand’s tourism industry at a time when it’s needed most.”
According to him, the route would provide a direct connection to Auckland for 540,000 Tasmanians, who would then be able to access Air New Zealand’s domestic network.
“We’ll be providing flights on Thursdays and Sundays to make the most of domestic connectivity and provide the best long weekend options for travellers.”
Hobart, and Tasmania in general, would appeal to New Zealanders, he said.
“I think New Zealanders will be blown away with what they discover in Tasmania, from world-class art and culture, to the food and wine scene, spectacular landscapes and an abundance of wildlife.
“There are 18 national parks to explore, with over 2000 kilometres of walking tracks where you may bump into a wombat or if you’re lucky, a Tasmanian Devil.”
According to Geraghty, the route was deemed pre-pandemic.
“We have looked at a range of destinations between Australia and New Zealand pre-pandemic, so yes, it has been in the mix previously.”
According to her, about 60,000 people traveled from Tasmania to New Zealand in 2019, and Hobart was the largest port in Australia without a non-stop trans-Tasman service.
She said Air New Zealand was working on the service with the Tasmanian government, but she wouldn’t say how much it had spent.
Air New Zealand was also waiting to hear from the New Zealand government about the conditions for a trans-Tasman bubble to be opened.
“We’re ready to go as soon as that is made.”