Air New Zealand is gearing up for quarantine-free flights to and from the Cook Islands and says news of a travel bubble is "very encouraging".
The airline said its teams are busy preparing to start two-way travel between here and the Cook Islands and across the Tasman.
This included rehiring and retraining more than 300 cabin crew, bringing back a number of airport staff, getting ground handlers back on board to ensure a smooth process for our aircraft and customers on arrival and re-opening our international lounges.
Chief executive officer Greg Foran today said: "News of a travel bubble with the Cook Islands is nuti mataora (good news) and very encouraging."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled details of a potential two-way travel bubble with the Cook Islands after talking to the country's Prime Minister Mark Brown earlier today.
In a press conference today, Brown said the Cook Islands has asked for a date for the bubble, which will begin in the "month of May", he said. But it is unclear when in May that bubble will start.
Brown said there are still a few areas where the two countries will need to find agreement, but he was confident that can be found by May.
Foran said a huge amount of work was going on to get ready for a two-way bubble after a one way arrangement into this country was started two months ago.
Air New Zealand in January began operating two services a week between Auckland and Rarotonga.
"A huge amount of work is going on across the airline to get ready for when quarantine-free travel to and from the Cook Islands opens up," said Foran.
There would be thousands of people wanting to get home and see friends and family or to take a break in the sun.
"We're working closely with governments and airports on requirements. Safety will remain our top priority," said Foran
Stats NZ figures show that in the year to February last year just over 108,000 Kiwis visited the Cook Islands. This was up 1.4 per cent on the previous year.
Victoria Courtney, Flight Centre's general manager product, said there was heavy pent up demand for travel to the Cooks.
"When a firm travel date gets announced we can't wait to start sending customers off to the Cook Islands quarantine-free for both ways in May."
The Cook Islands could accommodate approximately 8000 visitors at any one point and the firm expected that it will fill up quickly.
She also warned that travel insurance, complicated at the best of times, may not cover Covid-related interruptions.
Once the Government declares Cook Islands as a safe travel destination, Flight Centre's insurance provider CoverMore plans to provide cover if you or a close contact contract Covid and it interrupts your travel plans, if the person you're planning to stay with has to quarantine, if your accommodation needs a break for a deep clean, and even if you're an essential worker and have to return to work due to an outbreak.
What no insurance provider will cover is a government-enforced lockdown, she said.
"It's worth chatting to a Travel Expert not only to ensure you have the right policy for you, but to have a plan in place for an extended stay should any hiccups occur," said Courtney.
Air New Zealand could face competition from real estate identity Mike Pero's Pasifika Air later in the year.
The new airline's flights would operate out of Christchurch and Wellington.
The airline is seeking regulatory approval for its operation.
"We remain committed to delivering a new experience for Cantabrians and Wellingtonians who want to fly direct on a daytime flight. No airline has done this before," Pero told the Herald earlier this year.
Pero in January was confident Pasifika Air will be airborne in June and in time for winter school holidays.