Air New Zealand welcomes reopening of Japan's borders to visa free tourists

Japan has officially reopened its borders to New Zealanders for visa-free travel.
Japan is described as a bucket list destination for many Kiwis. Photo credit: Getty Images (file)

Japan's border has officially reopened for visa-free travel after being shut for two-and-a-half years amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Air New Zealand is celebrating the move, describing Japan-Aotearoa travel as "hugely important".

As of today, if you have a passport from New Zealand or any of the 67 other countries on the visa-exemption list you can enter Japan without the need to quarantine, test on arrival, obtain a visa or travel as part of an organised group.

There are still some restrictions, such as visitors who are not triple-vaccinated against COVID-19 will be required to submit a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure; but for most New Zealanders, travelling to the country will be as it was before restrictions were introduced in 2020.

Air NZ currently flies three times per week non-stop from Auckland Airport to Narita Airport near Tokyo, departing at 9:50am on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The return flights depart Narita at 6.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The direct route normally takes between 10 and 11 hours each way.

On December 12, Air NZ plans to increase its weekly return flights from three to six, before restarting a daily service from February 13, 2023.

The airline told Newshub it currently has no plans to restart direct flights to other Japanese airports it has previously flown to such as Haneda or Kansai.

"Kiwis have been flying to Japan on our aircraft since 1980 and over the years have built up a real affinity and affection for Japan," said Scott Carr, Air NZ General Manager for Longhaul.

"Following the news that Japan's border will reopen to tourists, we saw a strong uptick in interest and bookings from Kiwis. No surprise there given Japan is often top of people's travel bucket list.

"The reopening couldn't be better timed for Kiwis wanting to get up to Japan with autumn being a major tourism season, and the All Blacks playing Japan on October 29. The ski season which falls over the New Zealand summer is also fast approaching.

"Japan is a real wonder to visit, regardless of when you go. Whether it's Kyoto turning golden in autumn, winter skiing on the slopes of Hokkaido or catching the Sakura (cherry blossoms) in spring, there's always something to see and do. And the Japanese are wonderfully consummate hosts and of course, the food is amazing."

In addition to transporting Kiwi tourists to Japan, Air NZ is very interested in attracting more Japanese tourists back to Aotearoa.

The airline said Japan was New Zealand's fifth largest international visitor market in 2019 with 100,000 visitors spending around $277 million in New Zealand.