Air NZ announces Raro flights, Jetstar on hold

Monday 3 May 2021 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Economy, National

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Air NZ announces Raro flights, Jetstar on hold
Auckland Airport. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Local tourism industry is expecting a gradual growth in visitor numbers when two-way quarantine free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand commences on May 16.

Following the announcement of the Cook Islands-New Zealand travel bubble, local resorts have started receiving enquiries for bookings for the coming month.

Liana Scott, the president of Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council, said in terms of enquiries most have been cautious booking from October onwards.

But yesterday had been the first day “we have seen enquiries for June and July”, Scott said.

“We of course have some returnees that are ready to travel at a moment’s notice and have been patiently waiting on the side-line for a definitive date that they can count on,” she said.

“We are not yet at the occupancy levels pre Covid-19, and it is still early days, but as New Zealand heads into winter I am sure a tropical holiday is sure looking tempting to Kiwi travellers with limited destinations to choose from, particularly a destination that can boast being Covid-19 free.”

Yesterday Air New Zealand said it would fly to the Cook Islands two to three times weekly using its 787-9 fleet once the bubble opens.

The airline expects to operate daily from July in time for the school holidays.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran says it’s terrific to be opening the bubble between Rarotonga and New Zealand in both directions after four months of a one-way arrangement.

“Today’s announcement is a major milestone for both New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Air New Zealand,” he said.

“The Cook Islands hold a very special place for New Zealanders and Air New Zealand. More than a paradise with off-the-scale natural beauty, many Kiwis will be eager to head over for a warm break and some R&R.

“We know it’s a popular destination because in 2019, of the 446,000 Kiwis who took a trip to the Pacific Islands, almost 110,000 headed to Rarotonga,” Foran said.

Customers will be required to wear masks during travel to and from Rarotonga and screening questions will be asked at check-in, he said.

Air NZ’s website currently shows the seat-only return fares between Auckland and Rarotonga during the first week of the bubble starting at $613.

Jetstar, which used to fly in competition to Air NZ before the pandemic, says it cannot return until Australia is part of the bubble.

A spokesman said it was “great news” that quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will be allowed soon.

“Our services to Rarotonga originate in Australia so are not part of the NZ/Cook Islands bubble,” he said.

“We look forward to the Australian Government working with the Cook Islands and other Pacific Island governments for two-way quarantine-free travel in the future.”

Auckland Airport general manager aeronautical commercial, Scott Tasker, welcomed the bubble news.

He said the two-way, quarantine-free connection will not only provide a critical lifeline for the Cook Islands tourism industry, but an easier connection for friends and whānau.

“Since mid-January, one-way quarantine-free travel to Auckland Airport has been an important link for those Cook Islanders needing to come to New Zealand for family, health, work or education reasons.

“Opening up two-way quarantine-free travel will not only be a much-needed boost to the Cook Islands economy, particularly ahead of the winter months, but gives the tens of thousands of Cook Islanders living in New Zealand an opportunity to travel to the islands again," he said.

"Auckland Airport has been operating a fully separated international terminal for two weeks now, and it will be fantastic to welcome back more 'green' international travellers to its dedicated safe travel zone."

Flight Centre NZ managing director David Coombes said the Cook Islands bubble was another encouraging step forward for the travel industry.

“Customers have been asking about the Cook Islands for many months, it will be a welcome addition to the trans-Tasman bubble for those wanting a winter beach escape," he said.

“We highly recommend reaching out to a travel expert early to reserve flights and accommodation as soon as possible, particularly for the busy school holiday periods – we will be rolling out some fantastic holiday packages in the coming days with prices that are not too far off what you may have paid pre-Covid.”

Accommodation is on-par with pre-Covid rates, he said.

  • Additional reporting by Derek Cheng of New Zealand Herald