Carriers in Australia and New Zealand will operate at increased capacities in the next few months as coronavirus-related social distancing and travel restrictions are eased.

Qantas and Jetstar will increase domestic and regional flying in June and July, raising capacity by 5% by the end of June, to 15% of pre-Covid-19 levels. This works out to over 300 return flights per week.

“Additional flights will likely operate during July depending on travel demand and further relaxation of state borders, with the ability to increase to up to 40% of the group’s pre-crisis domestic capacity by the end of July,” Qantas says.

These additional flights include more services on capital city routes, particularly Melbourne-Sydney (the state capitals of Victoria and New South Wales) and routes to and from national capital Canberra. Among other additions, the group also plans to resume eight other routes currently not operated and increase weekly intra-state flights for Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand says it will operate at 55% of scheduled domestic capacity in July and August. Its schedule indicates it will deploy Airbus A320s, ATR turboprops and Bombardier Q300s on over 880 weekly return flights from Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

New Zealand lowered its Covid-19 measures from Alert Level 3 to Level 2 on 13 May. Since then, the carrier says, it has been flying to most of the domestic destinations it serviced pre-Covid-19, though at reduced frequencies, and will continue to further build its domestic schedule.

“We’ve been encouraged by demand from leisure travellers recently and we’re also expecting demand for business travel to continue to build,” Scott Carr, general manager networks, says.

“As a result, we have been working to add more flying to our domestic schedule from next month and this includes additional services for the July school holidays.”

Separately, Air New Zealand says it is working with the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum as part of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group to develop safe border recommendations that will be proposed to Australian and New Zealand government agencies for consideration.

“Air New Zealand is not proposing Tasman operations until such time that the Tasman borders are open, and only with the support of governments on both sides,” it says.

“We appreciate that both businesses and travellers are enthusiastic about operations – and we assure customers that as soon as it is possible to operate, Air New Zealand will be ready to return to the Tasman.”

The forum last said on 27 May that the group will complete its proposal by early June and share it with ministers from both nations. 

John Hart, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s executive chair, tourism, says the tourism industry believes a July start-date for “a back-to-business flight” was feasible, New Zealand broadcaster RNZ reported today.

“We want to see this happen sooner than later,” Hart says. “It’s absolutely vital that we get some flow back into businesses either side of the Tasman.”

New Zealand’s cabinet will decide on 8 June, ahead of the 22 June schedule, whether to further relax Covid-19 measures to Alert Level 1. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern indicated in recent days that this could happen as early as 10 June, provided the country continues to report no new Covid-19 cases.