Air New Zealand to fly 70% of pre-COVID capacity to Australia as travel bubble opens

SYDNEY, April 6 (Reuters) - Air New Zealand Ltd said on Tuesday it would begin flying at 70% of its pre-pandemic flight capacity to Australia once a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble opens on April 19, in a move that is expected to reduce its cash burn.

Before the pandemic, Australia was New Zealand’s largest tourism market and demand for travel between the two countries represented around 20% of Air New Zealand’s revenue, the carrier said in a statement.

In a boost to the New Zealand carrier and rival Qantas Airways Ltd, Virgin Australia said on Tuesday it had suspended the sale of most New Zealand services until Oct. 31.

Air New Zealand shares were trading 6.7% higher at 0455 GMT, while Qantas shares were 2.8% higher.

Air New Zealand had previously guided the market to expect cash burn of NZ$45 million ($31.73 million) to NZ$55 million a month through June 30 at a time when most other international services are suspended.

The airline said the start of quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia was expected to reduce cash burn, though it was not yet in a position to provide updated information.

“As such, the airline’s cash burn guidance has been suspended at this time,” Air New Zealand said. ($1 = 1.4184 New Zealand dollars) (Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)