New Zealand plans to open a quarantine-free travel bubble with the Cook Islands, prompting Air New Zealand to ramp up flights to the popular leisure destination of Rarotonga, the largest city on the Cook Islands.
The New Zealand-Cook Islands bubble is slated to start on May 17; a final sign-off will be needed by health authorities in both countries. There is already a one-way travel corridor from the Cook Islands to New Zealand that was established in January.
This will be the second two-way travel bubble established by New Zealand, following the opening of an Australia-New Zealand bubble on April 19.
Air New Zealand followed the announcement of the Cook Islands bubble by scheduling more Boeing 787 flights to Rarotonga (RAR). It will operate the Auckland (AKL)-RAR route 2-3 times weekly from May 18 to June 6, then 3-4 times weekly until June 27. The service is expected to be daily from July, which is the school holiday season in New Zealand.
Although neither quarantining nor vaccinations will not be required, passengers will have to wear masks during flights and health screening questions will be asked at check-in. Passengers flying to Rarotonga must also have been in New Zealand for the prior 14 days.
The travel bubble and resumption of tourism flows will be a major boost for the Cook Islands economy. Air New Zealand estimates that about a quarter of the trips by New Zealanders to Pacific Islands destinations in 2019 went to Rarotonga.
Photo credit: Rob Finalyson