100 headed for New Zealand on first quarantine-free flight

Tuesday 19 January 2021 | Written by Katrina Lintonbon | Published in Local, National

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100 headed for New Zealand on first quarantine-free flight
Photo: Cook Islands News. 20050837

Air New Zealand is expecting a sharp increase in the number of bookings between Auckland and Rarotonga following the announcement of quarantine-free travel into New Zealand. By Katrina Lintonbon.

About 100 people are booked to fly out of Rarotonga to Auckland tomorrow, making these passengers the first to enter New Zealand without the need to undergo 14-day managed quarantine.

An official from Air New Zealand’s Rarotonga office confirmed most of the bookings were made following last Thursday’s announcement of quarantine free travel into New Zealand.

“Naturally speaking, people have taken up the opportunity of quarantine free travel into New Zealand,” the official said.

Among those who will be travelling are students returning to study and some who require medical treatment. Others are heading to Auckland to catch up with their families and friends.

Te Marae Ora spokesperson Jaewynn said the Health ministry does not have any current emergency cases waiting for referral to New Zealand.

“However, I am aware of some orthopaedic patients who are on the waiting list for surgery in New Zealand,” McKay said.

“Further, there are a number of individuals who will now be in a position to travel to New Zealand for annual check-ups, privately funded surgery and specialist appointments that had been put on hold.”

The Air New Zealand flight departing Rarotonga on Wednesday morning will arrive here later today. There is no indication how many passengers are on this flight.

An Air New Zealand media spokesperson said customer numbers could not be confirmed due to privacy reasons. However, they said they have been encouraged to see an increase in bookings following the announcement.

“The first couple of flights inbound are showing strength. This is as expected as we bring the first wave of Cook Islanders that meet the bubble requirements into New Zealand quarantine-free,” the spokesperson said.

“We see this as a really positive step towards a full two-way bubble with the Cook Islands.”

And, it is business as usual for staff at Rarotonga International Airport as they prepare to welcome an extra weekly Air New Zealand flight.

The two flights will depart Rarotonga for Auckland on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Airport Authority chief executive officer Joe Ngamata said: “We are just reintroducing staff into the rosters for the extra flight. Customs, Immigration and Health are at the fore of things and if any changes they’d be the first to be impacted.”