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Bubble Time: New Zealand, Cook Islands Travel Arrangement Begins

Kia Ora and Kia Orana! Today, 17 May, is the day the New Zealand, Cook Islands quarantine-free travel bubble agreement begins.

Kia Ora and Kia Orana! Today, 17 May, is the day the New Zealand, Cook Islands quarantine-free travel bubble agreement begins.

Bubbles are in the air, and this time the agreement sees New Zealanders reunite with their South Pacific brothers and sisters for the first time in 15 months.

From 17 May, the bubble is open, with the first Air New Zealand flight flying out of Auckland at 08:45 on Tuesday 18 May.

Graeme West, Cook General Manager of the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation for Australasia said ”we are looking forward with much anticipation to welcoming Kiwis back to our beautiful islands.”

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Image: Christchurch Airport

After four months of a one-way arrangement, this two-way bubble is good news for both nations.

“The Cook Islands hold a very special place for New Zealanders and Air New Zealand. More than a paradise with off-the-scale natural beauty, many Kiwis will be eager to head over for a warm break and some R&R.”

“We know it’s a popular destination because in 2019, of the 446,000 Kiwis who took a trip to the Pacific Islands, almost 110,000 headed to Rarotonga,” Graeme West said.

Last week it was also announced that Pfizer vaccine is expected to be on board the first quarantine-free flight between the two countries on Tuesday morning, which Graena West said would “will add another layer of comfort for both locals and visitors.”

Air New Zealand warms up its engines

Air New Zealand will operate a 2-3 times weekly service from Tuesday 18 May, and expects to operate daily from July in time for the school holidays.

Origin Destination Travel Aircraft Flight # Depart Arrive Frequency
AKL RAR 18 May-6 June 787 NZ946 08.45 14.30 -1 2-3 times per week.
RAR AKL 18 May-6 June 787 NZ945 15.50 18.25 +1
AKL RAR 7-27 June 787 NZ946 08.45 14.30 -1 3-4 times per week.
RAR AKL 7-27 June 787 NZ945 15.50 18.25 +1

Customers will be required to wear masks during travel to and from Rarotonga and screening questions will be asked at check-in.

To be eligible to travel, customers will need to have been in New Zealand for the preceding 14 days.

Air New Zealand’s international flexibility policy allows customers with flights scheduled to depart before 11:59pm on 31 December 2021 the ability to opt into credit or make a change to the date or time of the flight with change fees waived (fare difference may still apply).  

What happens if there is a case?

According to a report by Stuff, the Cook Islands bubble differs from the Australian arrangement.

This is because the Cooks have not reported any COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic, so if a case does emerge, it will have come from New Zealand.

Speaking to Breakfast on Monday, Jacinda Ardern explained, in the event of new infections, the Cooks will likely want to close their border to New Zealand, but the quarantine-free path from the Cook Islands may still remain open.

The New Zealand Prime Minister said there are three phases of the bubble: Continue, pause and suspend and the advice for all bubble travellers at every phase is to be prepared.

Over in the Cook Islands, contact tracing will play an important part in ensuring that quarantine-free travel continues; and visitors will be encouraged to use Cooksafe and Cooksafe+ to assist.

The Cook Islands Tourism Corporation has also produced a Cook Islands Promisea shortlist of what is needed to keep locals and visitors safe. Information on this promise and FAQs detailing what travellers need to know before departing NZ can be found on