7 Apr 2021

Air NZ ads for Rarotonga flights suggest two-way travel imminent

1:43 pm on 7 April 2021

Air New Zealand is advertising daily commercial flights to the Cook Islands, ahead of any official travel-bubble announcement.

Rarotonga Airport.

Rarotonga Airport. Photo: Airport Authority Cook Islands

It's one of a series of signs that the two countries may be on the verge of resuming quarantine-free, two-way travel.

Air New Zealand's airfare advertisements point to daily return flights beginning 10 May.

There's yet to be an announcement by the two countries' prime ministers, who met in New Zealand recently to discuss details of a travel bubble.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown alluded to an imminent bubble in a statement today, saying the country would capitalise on its New Zealand meetings in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, National Party leader Judith Collins told RNZ today a Cook Islands bubble was due on 1 May.

But if Air New Zealand's flights plans for Australia are anything to go by, their dates for Rarotonga are the ones to watch.

In January, one-way quarantine-free travel from Rarotonga to Auckland began. Since then officials from both countries have been in discussions about expanding the arrangement to a two-way quarantine-free system.

Cook Islands PM, Mark Brown (centre) during his visit to NZ

Anticipating resumption of two-way travel: Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown (centre) during his visit to New Zealand, March, 2021. Photo: Ryan Anderson

In his statement, Brown said he was heartened by the levels of protection at the New Zealand border.

"Two weeks ago, my delegation and I experienced first-hand, the border preparedness at Auckland International Airport; the 'green zones' provide for safe border entry and departure without mixing with transit passengers or returnees heading for MIQ.

"Dedicated airline and airport staff for 'green zone travellers' are also kept from mixing with other airline and airport staff.

"This is what visitors will experience when coming here once we open our border and it has been heartening to see first-hand and experience the levels of protection at the border."

Meanwhile, Collins said she was bemused the government hadn't announced the date of a two-travel bubble publicly.

But she agreed any decisions on travel had to ultimately be based on health considerations and that business interests couldn't take priority.