Air passengers never thought they'd be celebrating the return of the middle seat. However, today's announcement that physical distancing would be eased on planes has led to the release of thousands of bargain fares and the return of Air New Zealand competitors.
Having grounded its fleet for a month Australian budget carrier Jetstar has announced it will be returning to New Zealand's skies on 17 September.
Jetstar, which is owned by Australian national carrier Qantas, suspended flights as distancing measures on New Zealand flights to prevent a second community flare up of the Coronavirus.
On the 25th of August the carrier grounded all flights saying it could not make a profit while they were required to leave up to half their onboard seats unsold.
"The limitations on the number of customers that are allowed on board our aircraft make the operations of our flights unviable," said the airline.
It further extended this suspension on September 4, when there still was no easing to these restrictions in sight.
Air New Zealand which resumed flights from Auckland under "Level 2.5" was criticised for gouging domestic travellers. The Queenstown Auckland route was called out in particular.
Queenstown mayor Jim Boult wrote an open letter to the PM's office calling for physical distancing to be eased on routes out of New Zealand cities to help restart regional businesses which were hurting from the lack of international visitors.
Boult who was in discussions with the airline said the carrier was "as keen as we are to get business back up and going again, but they can't make sense out of it the way it is at the present time."
When flights resumed under Level 2 alert Airline boss Greg Foran acknowledged that prices would remain high, saying:
"We won't be able to offer our lowest lead in fares until physical distancing measures are removed."
However, true to their word, Air New Zealand has announced passengers would see a reduction in fares.
"We're thrilled to be able to offer 160,000 of these fares for under $50, with 9,000 of these available during the upcoming school holidays," said the airline.
While passengers and crew would still be required to wear face coverings when flying, the ability to sell all seats would give the airline some financial breathing room.
Making better economy on their flights, the airline said they would pass on some of these savings to passengers "by way of thanks", in the form of cheaper fares.
"While our borders are closed, we know Kiwis are keen to get out and explore or visit friends and family, so we want to make travel as easy as possible – and this is also great news for local tourism."
Jetstar's resumed September schedule from 17th will be offering seats on six domestic routes. This includes Auckland to Dunedin from $61 one way, and Auckland to Queenstown from $105 one way.