Coronavirus: Expert predicts international travel could resume as early as 2021

The coronavirus has grounded flights across the globe as countries race to slow the spread of the deadly disease - but as New Zealand's cases dwindle and its alert level drops Kiwis are beginning to wonder - when can they fly?

Although the chief executive officer of the international transport association Alexandre De Juniac says we can't expect normality until 2023, an expert closer to home says think again.

International aviation expert Geoff Thomas is currently based in Perth and he says we could be jet setting sooner than we think.

"There are 102 vaccine initiatives underway at the moment, 92 of those are in preclinical trials and eight are underway in clinical trials - I think [we'll be able to fly] a lot sooner than that," Thomas told The Project on Friday. 

"I'm certainly hoping in the first quarter of next year."

While flights across the world are still a while away Thomas says the chances of Australia and New Zealand being able to visit one another are much more realistic - a trans-Tasman bubble could be in place as early as October. 

There's more good news too - he predicts airfares will be "extraordinarily low" when they are back on the table.

"We've already seen Quanatas offering 30 percent their best fares to date, so that gives you a taste of what's to come."

At the beginning of the pandemic, Air New Zealand was struggling, laying off hundreds of staff and pleading with the Government for help - but Thomas says the airline will endure the tough times. 

"I don't think there's any doubt that Air New Zealand will survive - its biggest shareholder is the government and it's critical to tourism, there's no doubt it will survive this." 

Watch the full interview above.