Trans-Tasman travel bubble: Air NZ cuts flights as demand lags behind expectations

Air New Zealand has cut six flights this week after the demand for trans-Tasman travel was lower than expected. 

The bubble, which opened on Monday, allows New Zealanders and Australians to travel between the countries without mandatory quarantine. 

While bookings spiked after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the bubble, demand has cooled. 

Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said the response has been good but is slightly lower than expected. 

"[Demand] has been pretty much where we wanted it to be. So lots of pent up demand on that first day back on Monday and a little bit more moderate through the week," he told The AM Show on Friday. 

"We have actually pulled a few [flights], so we had to take a bit of a shot in the dark as to how many [flights] are going to be used because the booking window is so short. A lot of people really didn't start booking until a week ago." 

Foran said the airline is planning to ramp up flights to 300 a week in July as travel picks up for the school holidays 

"I am pleased to see a gradual build-up now and people getting pretty excited - particularly as they think ahead to the next school holidays in July."

The CEO also revealed Friday is the busiest day the airline has had since COVID-19 started. 

"We are going to be moving some 40,000 people today and over 500 flights so what we are seeing is a really solid, steady recovery and we will just have to see how it plays out over the next few years. 

The bubble also means Air New Zealand is bringing back staff after it was forced to downsize during the pandemic. 

"What we have had to do is bring back some of our crew and that's really exciting," Foran said. 

Earlier in the month, Accommodation Association CEO Julie White told The AM Show many potential travellers are still wary about making the trip. 

"When the announcement [came out], we had a rush of bookings into New Zealand. However, it dried up really quickly - within a week the bookings stopped. We are also hearing from both sides that flight schedules are starting to be reduced in May. 

"Opening the border is excellent but it's not going to be the silver bullet, so the Government still needs to manage the health crisis and economic crisis. We are already seeing upward prices from supply chains, so that's an early indicator of inflationary pressures, so we need to keep an eye on the economy as well as get trying to get more Australians over to New Zealand."