Auckland Airport has been processing quarantine free flights for months but says the aviation sector will need three weeks to ramp up operations when the green light is given for a two-way transtasman bubble.
The Government is under growing pressure over a quarantine-free arrangement with Australia and although it would make an announcement ''soon,'' it is not putting a firm date on it.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Covid19 outbreaks on both sides of the Tasman had delayed plans, which late last year, were hoped to be in place by the end of this month.
''I haven't put firm dates because I don't want there to be moving goalposts. I want to present people with some definitive dates they can plan around - we are working very hard to give people as much certainty as possible.' she said today.
People could get stuck in Australia if an outbreak caused a pause in travel.
She said airports had some "good, robust protocols in place, which is what we'd expect".
Auckland Airport's general manager aeronautical commercial Scott Tasker said the company had been preparing to manage different categories of travellers since it announced plans to separate the international terminal into two self-contained processing zones last August.
Zone A, Safe Travel area, will be used exclusively by quarantine-free arrivals and all departures, and Zone B, health management area, will be used for processing arrivals who are going on to managed isolation facilities and for arriving and departing transit passengers.
The physical works have been completed and a number of flights have been processed through Zone B since December to test and refine the processes.
''Everyone in the aviation sector – from airlines to border agencies – has been preparing for months for trans-Tasman quarantine-free travel but a three-week notice period is needed so the system can ramp up operations,'' he said.
Everything from ticketing and flight scheduling to adjusting staff rosters across everyone from airlines, caterers, and ground handlers, to the in-terminal retailers would need time to gear up from the extra volume of quarantine-free flights.
The Tasman is the busiest international patch out of Auckland.
International passenger numbers are currently down by around 97 per cent at Auckland Airport.
There were just 26,000 international passengers in January this year compared to more than 1 million in the same month last year, just before Covid hit.
In pre-Covid times about 40 per cent of international passengers at Auckland Airport were on transtasman flights.
Christchurch Airport said it has been safe and ready for a two-way bubble since last October.
Chief aeronautical and commercial officer Justin Watson says the airport's processes are all in place, have been approved by government agencies and offer a safe environment.
"We have been ready and safe for months to welcome both travellers and partner airlines who travel the Tasman, with others waiting to come here from further afield.
The airport's frontline staff have been vaccinated and were looking forward to safely welcoming international travellers again, said Watson.