New Zealand's travel bubble with Australia has led to an effective blocking of one of the major routes Kiwis were able to use to return home amid the pandemic.
The bubble, which comes into effect on April 19, will mean that people in Australia will be able to board "green" quarantine-free flights, as long as they have been in Australia for the past 14 days.
But the majority of "red flights" from Australia – which carry passengers who don't meet those requirements and are required to enter managed isolation or quarantine on arrival in New Zealand – will cease from April 19.
This means there will be fewer options for returning Kiwis who are transiting in Australia from further abroad.
The Unite Against Covid-19 website explains: "Every flight from Australia to New Zealand from [April 19] will be green flights."
Pre-bubble, Air New Zealand was operating five return red flights from New Zealand to Australia each week – two to Sydney, two to Melbourne and one to Brisbane.
Travellers on these flights were kept separate from green-flight passengers en route to Australia, and were required to enter into 14 days of managed isolation on arrival in New Zealand.
Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Jetstar have each confirmed they will only be operating quarantine-free flights between Australia and New Zealand.
Qatar Airways is still operating thrice weekly services to Auckland via Brisbane, a spokesperson confirmed. The route originates in Doha and doesn't pick up new passengers in Brisbane.
"I do think it is an unintended consequence of the travel bubble with Australia. Who would have thought New Zealanders are going to be prevented from coming home," IMMagine immigration adviser Iain MacLeod said.
He believed this had not even been considered by New Zealand officials.
"We are trying to make travel easier, but we are just making it harder."
MacLeod was contacting at least six South African families who were meant to be coming to New Zealand after the travel bubble started. They would now have to book new flights, in the hope they could again make them match up with their MIQ slots.
These would likely be via places that could fly directly to Auckland such as Dubai or Hong Kong.
Kiwis abroad were previously allowed to enter Australia for a 72-hour transit period, provided they were eligible for a Special Category visa (Subclass 444).
Australia's Home Affairs said in a statement: "The Australian Border Force is working with New Zealand and our industry partners on the implementation of two-way quarantine free travel, including transit arrangements."
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement: "We know that reduced transit options are likely to cause challenges for Kiwis in some destinations, where routes back to New Zealand depend on transits through Australia and New Zealand.
"Officials are in discussions with Australia to find a possible solution. However, it is a commercial decision for each airline as to which types of flights they operate."