21 January 2021
For the first time in nearly 10 months, international arrivals into Auckland Airport can walk directly into the arms of loved ones.
The touch-down of the first quarantine-free flight from the Cook Islands today will be a special moment for Cook Islanders in both countries who are now able to reconnect more easily, said Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport General Manager Aeronautical Commercial.
“Air travel is important for trade, business or just heading off on an exciting adventure – and also for connecting friends and whanau for life’s precious moments is what really makes it special,” said Mr Tasker. “I know the Auckland Airport team have missed seeing those wonderful welcomes in our arrivals hall.”
Passengers arriving from the Cook Islands will use a streamlined Safe Travel Path, which uses airline slot management, rigorous cleaning and other operational tools to create separation between Cook Island travellers and those passengers arriving from other parts of the world.
“We know that airports have a vital role in managing the risks of COVID-19 transmission. In what is a highly complex operational system of interconnected organisations, it’s been through hard work and collective effort that the first quarantine-free flights into New Zealand since April 2020 have become operational,” Mr Tasker said.
While Auckland Airport has prepared to separate its international terminal into two self-contained zones – a Health Management zone for arrivals needing to go into managed isolation and quarantine, and a Safe Travel zone for arrivals from countries with which New Zealand has formed two-way, safe travel bubbles – these separated zones won’t operate for the Cook Islands arrivals.
The expectation of only two flights per week under the one-way, quarantine-free arrangement with the Cook Islands made a Safe Travel Path a practical interim step, following discussions with border agencies and government officials.
Mr Tasker said allowing quarantine-free flights from a COVID-free country like the Cook Islands is a small, but important, first step in the recovery of the aviation and tourism sector.
“Taking a careful and staged, risk-based approach to re-opening the New Zealand border will be crucial in re-establishing regular, reliable airlinks with the Pacific Islands and beyond,” Mr Tasker said.
“We are a long way from the 15,000 people that would have walked through our international arrivals doors daily this time last year, but what we’ve seen with domestic air travel is that people are keen to fly again when lockdown restrictions are lifted. We now have domestic travel volumes at around 60% of what they were pre-COVID.
“Previously we had around 1.4 million people travel to and from the Pacific Islands through Auckland Airport each year on eight different airlines. We expect it will take some time to get those air connections re-established.”
Cook Island arrivals FAQ
Can I come into the terminal to welcome my friend or family member?
We’d love you to come and welcome your Cook Islands friends and whanau to New Zealand. Our main international terminal car park – Car Park A – and the pick-up / drop-off areas are open.
Are taxis, shuttles and public transport operating?
Yes, you’ll be able to catch a taxi, rideshare, SkyBus or Auckland Transport bus services to and from the international terminal.
Please remember to wear a face mask on public transport or if requested by your driver.
What food outlets and retailers are going to be open?
Many of our retailers at the international terminal have closed or operate for limited hours since the COVID-19 outbreak. For up-to-date information on which businesses are open in the international terminal, domestic terminal or around the airport precinct check out our website.
Will duty-free be open for arriving passengers?
Unfortunately, our duty-free stores aren’t currently available for arriving passengers.
Should Cook Island arrivals use the NZ Government COVID-19 Tracer app?
Yes, it’s important that everyone in New Zealand tracks:
- Where they went.
- When they went there.
- Who they met.
Use the NZ COVID Tracer app with Bluetooth tracing turned on if you can. Remember to keep scanning QR codes — both are important for contact tracing.
If you do not use the app, use whatever method works for you, like the NZ COVID Tracer booklet. Encourage your family, whānau and friends to do the same.
Can I go to the Cook Islands on holiday?
At this stage the quarantine-free travel currently only applies to Cook Islanders travelling between the Cook Islands and New Zealand. Providing quarantine-free entry into New Zealand allows people from the Cook Islands – which has remained COVID-19 free – to quickly make essential visits to New Zealand. The Cook Islands Government has more information on its current border restrictions here:
Up-to-date information from the New Zealand Government on travel and border restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic are available here: