Auckland Airport reveals new 'safe zone' at international terminal, in anticipation of Pacific bubble

While a potential trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia has been scuppered by a recent rise in cases over the ditch, New Zealand's airports are still getting ready in the hopes a bubble with the Pacific can be created.

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The airport is looking to have two separate terminals – one for those arriving from bubble destinations and another for all others. Source: 1 NEWS

Announced today, Auckland Airport is planning to create a "safe travel zone" in its international airport to separate people travelling between 'bubble' countries and those coming from the rest of the world.

Christchurch, Wellington and Queenstown airports are also putting their own systems in place, the New Zealand Aviation Coalition confirmed.

With most of the new arrivals coming into Auckland's airport, officials there say the planning is in its final stages, but the separate zones won't be operational until after a travel bubble is announced.

"Auckland Airport is building the new internal walls to allow for the terminal to be separated, and we are working through the final stages of planning with border agencies and airlines to enable the physical and operational separation," chief executive Adrian Littlewood says.

Zone A, the safe travel area, would be the main pier to the south, containing gates one to 10. It would include people travelling to and from countries with a travel bubble, and people leaving on international flights after being in the country for 14 days.

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That zone will contain retail and food and beverage options, Auckland Airport says.

The west pier, containing gates 15 to 18, will be the "health management area" for other international travellers.

It includes arrivals who need to go into managed isolation or quarantine, as well as people transiting through Auckland Airport to go elsewhere.

Instead of shops, transit passengers will be able to get food and beverages from vending machines, Auckland Airport says.

Both zones will have increased hygiene protocols including hand sanitiser stations and increased cleaning.

"While physical distancing isn’t a requirement under Alert Level 1, we are encouraging customers to allow space between themselves and other people, and for everyone to take extra care with hygiene," Mr Littlewood says.

NZ Aviation Coalition co-chair Justin Tighe-Umbers says people are itching to travel again.

"People want to travel overseas, and getting flights going as soon as it is safe to do so is key," he says.

"Auckland Airport creating two terminals is an innovative move that will allow airlines to grow capacity as we open up safe zones with other countries."

However Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says today's announcement by Auckland Airport shouldn't be taken as a sign that a Pacific travel bubble is imminent.

At her weekly post-Cabinet press conference today, she said the airport's arrangements are just "one part of many elements that need to be worked through".

"We have to move through this very carefully," she says.

A travel bubble, which would mean no quarantine or isolation for those international arrivals, means they can't have any contact with either other arrivals or those surfaces touched by people arriving from countries with Covid-19, Ms Ardern says.

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The Prime Minister said the struggle across the ditch was also a reminder to stay vigilant to the virus in New Zealand. Source: Breakfast

Earlier today, Ms Ardern told Breakfast that a trans-Tasman travel bubble is "a long way off", as Australia struggles with a surge in Covid-19 cases.

"I can't see how that could be even a remote possibility at this point," she says.

"It's incredibly difficult to watch, to see our cousins over the ditch going through this. It's also a message to us to continue to maintain our vigilance."

The Cook Island has also asked to be considered for a travel bubble, as it has no Covid-19 cases and is struggling with the lack of tourism.