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Kia Orana: New Zealand, Cook Islands Travel Bubble To Begin From 17 May

Bubbles are in the air, with New Zealand officially announcing it will be kicking off a second travel bubble, this time with Rarotonga.

Bubbles are in the air, with New Zealand officially announcing it will be kicking off a second travel bubble, this time with Rarotonga.

As New Zealand’s temperatures drop, Air New Zealand is warming up its engines for more international flights.

From 17 May, Air New Zealand will operate to the Cook Islands 2-3 times weekly using its 787-9 fleet, following the opening of a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble between New Zealand and Rarotonga.

According to Graeme West, Cook General Manager of the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation for Australasia, Cook Islanders are “waiting with open arms and big smiles” to greet their first visitors in over a year.

He said that visitor numbers to the Cook Islands “hit zero” when borders were closed in March 2020. “Because tourism is the mainstay of our economy, this has caused significant financial hardship for many people,” he said.

”We are looking forward with much anticipation to welcoming Kiwis back to our beautiful islands.”

Tell me more…

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says it’s terrific to be opening the bubble between Rarotonga and New Zealand in both directions after four months of a one-way arrangement.

“Today’s announcement is a major milestone for both New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Air New Zealand.

“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.

“We’re certain our Cook Island neighbours will welcome Kiwis with open arms for a much-needed boost for the local economy, and we’re looking forward to reconnecting friends and whānau who haven’t been able to take advantage of the one-way travel arrangement that’s been in place since January.”

Having the Tasman and Cook Islands up and running offers Air New Zealand customers more destinations to add to their holiday plans.

Cue the tropical vibes, here’s the Air New Zealand – Rarotonga schedule:

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

The airline expects to operate daily from July in time for the school holidays.

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).  

Sorry, Aussies

While we are truly over the moon for our Kiwi and Cook Island neighbours, Australian’s still have to wait a little longer to visit the dreamy South Pacific Islands we all know and love.

Last week, Australians were warned that they are not able to use the trans-Tasman bubble as a pathway to go further overseas – and could face severe consequences if they do so.

After the trans-Tasman bubble launched on 19 April, some were quick to discover the agreement could be used as a port to travel to another country, as New Zealand does not have laws forbidding overseas travel without an exemption like Australia does.

Border officials in Australia and New Zealand confirmed the loophole exists. However, it comes with its own risks.

Australians that now use New Zealand as a port to escape could be slammed with fines of up to $63,000 and five years in prison if found guilty under newly changed laws, amended by Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Hopefully, more bubbles will float to the surface very soon.