New travel bubble on horizon as trans-Tasman flights take off
A travel bubble between Australia and Singapore is on the horizon as the first flights for the long-awaited trans-Tasman arrangement take off.
Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says the government remains "in discussions" with Singapore as it looks to create more quarantine-free travel bubbles with other low COVID-risk countries.
The discussions come as the long-awaited trans-Tasman bubble commenced this morning, with Australians being able to travel freely to New Zealand for the first time in more than a year.
Mr McCormack said the two-way travel bubble with New Zealand showed "confidence" in a pathway out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It shows we're on the pathway out of COVID and back to some sort of normality. It's going to benefit both nations," he said.
"We love New Zealand. New Zealanders love Australia and it's a good thing."
A timeframe has not yet been given for other travel bubbles, with Mr McCormack insisting discussions with the Singaporean government were just "initial talks".
"We're having those chats, those initial chats with other countries as well, and as vaccines are rolled out here and elsewhere, these travel bubbles will be created, and as I say again, it will get us back to some sort of pre-COVID normality," he said.
The first flight from Australia to New Zealand is due to land at Auckland Airport about 12.10pm local time, where an official welcome is expected to take place.
JetStar flight JQ201 from Sydney took off at around 7.40am following delays this morning.https://twitter.com/briannascully9/status/1383904954889293827
While the first Air New Zealand plane will land in Wellington at 1pm local time, with a special welcome, including live music, also planned.
The first flight from New Zealand touched down at Sydney Airport at 7:55am.
There were tearful welcomes as arrivals from Wellington reunited with loved ones.https://twitter.com/sophie_walsh9/status/1383907332413788166
There are 30 flights scheduled today, with a total of 10,000 passengers flying on trans-Tasman routes.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has described the commencement of the trans-Tasman travel bubble as an "amazing day".
The airline has 630 employees returning to work today due to the arrangement, with 16 flights departing Australia today.
"The flights are full. We've got a lot of people going back to see family and friends, people wanting to take a holiday," Mr Joyce said.
"We have such excitement at the airport and it's nearly 400 days since people could travel, quarantine free.
"So a lot of people were dusting off the passport, trying to find where the passport was to try to get on these flights to New Zealand.
"It's great to see, it's very exciting."
Mr Joyce said he hoped New Zealand would be the first of many other destinations to come in the future.
Other potential hopefuls include the Pacific Islands, Fiji, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.
"We know this needs to go through National Cabinet and National Cabinet are looking at how to open up the border safely," he said.