Flyer beware: Returning transtasman bubble travellers could pay thousands in MIQ fees

Kiwis jetting to Australia as part of the transtasman bubble could be hit with thousands of dollars in managed isolation fees should there be a Covid-19 outbreak.

Air NZ and Qantas have already reported being run off their feet with ticket sales since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia would start from April 19.

The bubble opening promised families and tourists the chance to travel without spending two weeks cooped up in an hotel on their return to New Zealand.

However, Ardern emphasised the bubble was a case of “flyer beware”. New Zealand was ready to place strict conditions on those re-entering the country in the event of an Australian Covid outbreak.

That could include forcing some returning travellers to spend two weeks in managed isolation, with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment today confirming the Government would not pay for the minimum $3100 isolation bill.

“If there is a resurgence of Covid-19 and quarantine-free travellers to Australia are required to go into MIQ on their return to New Zealand, they will be required to pay for their stay,” a MIQ spokeswoman said.

“Applications to waive charges for managed isolation will be considered on a case-by-case basis.”

The spokeswoman said waivers would still be available in “cases of undue financial hardship and other special circumstances”.

MIQ’s website states that a 14-day managed isolation stay costs $3100 for a single person.

That increases by $950 for each extra adult and $475 for each extra child aged between 3 and 17.

The fee covers accommodation, food, transport and other costs, such as those incurred by Government agencies like the police or defence force.

The Government plans to manage the risk of Covid spreading from Australia to New Zealand using a traffic light system.

Under that system, the Government might suspend flights from one or more Australian states under the red alert, or suspend the transtasman bubble.

Travellers returning from an affected state might then have to go into a managed isolation facility.

Air NZ, meanwhile, said yesterday was a “record sales day” with tens of thousands of Kiwis and Aussies booking flights in the hours after the transtasman bubble announcement.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said Auckland-Sydney was the most popular route yesterday and had seen the largest growth in bookings to date.

“We expect this is a mixture of friends and family making up for a year of missed milestones, and business travellers keen to get moving again.”

At the same time, there had been really strong bookings for Australians coming to check out New Zealand, Foran said.

“Queenstown will see an influx of Aussies in July and September and we expect to see a bigger boost around the country for the July school holidays. It’s promising to be a busy ski season for the mountains.

“We’ve certainly been looking forward to this moment for a few months now, so to finally have the bubble open is terrific. This will be a great boost for the New Zealand economy and tourism sector.”

Air New Zealand’s Australian counterpart Qantas also saw a rush of people looking to book flights after yesterday’s announcement.

“The number of frequent flyers who redeemed their seats was 80 times busier than what we see on a normal day,” Qantas loyalty chief executive Olivia Wirth said.

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