Travel between Australia and New Zealand, coronavirus: The first trans-Tasman tourist flight could take off on July 1 between Canberra and Wellington

The first trans-Tasman tourist flight could take off on July 1 if a new proposal is accepted.

The Australian and New Zealand chambers of commerce hope to trial a new service between Canberra and Wellington to prove that a trans-Tasman bubble is safe, Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said.

The joint proposal will be put to both the New Zealand and Australian governments within a day "to help the survival, recovery and sustainability of our vital tourism, export, event and travel sector," Barnett said.

Canberra Airport is inviting expressions of interest for the first flights on July 1 and 2, which it says would ideally be operated by both Air New Zealand and Qantas. The dates could be pushed back if the proposal is not approved by both governments in time, it said.

However, Air New Zealand has poured cold water on a proposal to launch trans-Tasman passenger flights on July 1, saying it has no intention to operate the proposed service between Canberra and Wellington.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson added that "international travel will resume once border restrictions have been lifted".

Canberra Airport said it is proposing an incremental opening of the trans-Tasman bubble, beginning with flights between the two capital cities.

"The incremental approach will allow the early recommencement of travel between Australia and New Zealand and it will reunite families and friends who have been desperate to reconnect since the borders closed on 19 March 2020. It is proposed that passengers will be able to travel from Wellington throughout New Zealand and that travellers arriving in Canberra will be able to travel to NSW and Victoria and any other Australian State that has reopened its borders."

Barnett said the proposal is designed to "give consumers and governments confidence that we can get back to business," Barnett said.

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"We feed each other, and we need each other's dollars urgently to help with economic recovery. New Zealand needs Aussies back here as our single most important visitors, all 1.5 million of them, supporting our tourism sector, our cafés and events decimated by the enforced shutdown," said Barnett.

The proposal, which has been endorsed by the Wellington, Auckland and Canberra chambers of commerce, would see the Canberra-Wellington flights continue for a number of weeks before flights to other Australian and New Zealand destinations are added.

Barnett said the chambers see the flights between the two capital cities as "symbolic", but also "critical to demonstrating that there are processes and safeguards in place to keep Covid-19 at bay and allow the free movement of people".

"Following the successful implementation of flights between Canberra and Wellington over a number of weeks, and the thorough evaluation of the systems and processes in place, we believe that further destinations around the Australian and New Zealand network could open."

Asked about the proposal, WellingtonNZ General Manager David Perks said government agencies, health experts, airports and airlines on both sides of the Tasman are working "to get the border with Australia opened for safe air travel as soon as practicable".

"Wellington International Airport are well-placed and committed to enable flights on all routes between Wellington and Australia to resume,"

The proposal is separate from the blueprint the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group has been working on to re-start passenger flights between Australia and New Zealand.

Co-ordinated by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), the group is set to present its own draft proposal to the New Zealand and Australian governments for consideration in early June.

"New Zealanders and Australians are some of the most frequent travellers in the world, and we are very fortunate to now be in a position where our governments can even contemplate the safe re-opening of the trans-Tasman border, for the benefit of our communities and economies," said Scott Tasker, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group and Auckland Airport's General Manager Aeronautical Commercial.

"Our aim is to put forward a detailed set of recommendations that safely manage any health risks, while also allowing Kiwis and Australians to travel to each country without the need for a 14-day quarantine."

Made up of government agencies, six airports and two airlines, the group has spent the past few weeks developing the recommendations.

Experts from both sides of the Tasman are looking at measures which could be put in place to protect passengers at each stage of the journey, Margy Osmond, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group and CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum, said.

"It's critically important that people can have confidence in the safety of a trans-Tasman safe travel zone, and we are poring over every detail and aspect of the customer journey to find a safe and practical way forward, for the review and consideration of our respective governments."

Barnett described the chambers of commerce's proposal as "an initiative that's focusing on building some momentum around the debate".

"I think part of the agenda is to just build momentum to encourage governments on both sides to consider the opening of the links between our two countries."

Asked whether he thought New Zealand was ready to launch passenger flights to and from Australia from July 1, he said: "I think there are a large number of other considerations around process and health and other considerations. I think this is really just a signal from the business community that the sooner this opens, the better it would be for business."

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, Australia was the most popular overseas travel destination for Kiwis, while New Zealand was the most popular offshore destination for Australians.

The Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group will also recommend ways in which the trans-Tasman blueprint could be applied to other countries with which New Zealand may wish to have a travel bubble in the future.

Stuff.co.nz

See also: Greece invites Australia and NZ to join travel bubble

See also: Bali's out, Queensland's in: The new destinations on Australians' wish lists

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