All through the pandemic, New Zealand had some of the toughest restrictions in the world. It has results to show for tight border control: just over 100 deaths and 400,000 confirmed cases. After nearly two years of shutting everyone out, New Zealand announced this week that it will fully open its borders by July. Americans can already travel to the country as of earlier this month, as long as they have a negative pre-departure COVID test.
And if you’re raising a toast to new experiences in the Pacific nation, keep an eye out for its winery airline that’s taking to the skies this year. Invivo Air is founded by Invivo, a wine company based in Te Kauwhata, south of Auckland with operations spreading across New Zealand, Australia, Italy, and France.
Flying from Auckland in the North Island to Queenstown in the South Island, Invivo Air will begin operations on a 34-seat Swedish-built chartered Saab plane this year. The journey will be embellished with fine Invivo wines, a trip to the Invivo’s Central Otago growers, and a stay at The Hilton Queenstown.
It will be the world’s first winery airline. The goal is to give a boost to the tourism industry in Queenstown, which has been out of reach of international travelers for two years. Co-founders Robin Cameron and Tim Lightbourne are aiming to promote domestic tourism in New Zealand with this maiden flight and are hoping to add more routes later in the year with more wine experiences. Tim told CNN that the response has been positive for their maiden flight. He added, “We have vineyards in Marlborough, which is also the South Island. And in the North Island, we have some in the Hawke’s Bay region and Gisborne. We’d love to get some flights out that way later on this year, hopefully.”
Guess who’s being considered as potential guests on these flights? Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker and British presenter Graham Norton. Both have collaborated with the wine company to bring out their own special blends and they may come on board in the future to make it a star-studded experience. In case you were feeling thirsty, Graham Norton has given his name to a Sauvignon Blanc, a Prosecco, and a Shiraz, while Sarah Jessica Parker has a Sauvignon Blanc and a Rosé to her name.
For this journey, half of the seats are complimentary. The launch release states, “Priority for seats will be given to Auckland hospitality and tourism staff who have been affected by the lockdown, members of the public who haven’t seen their South Island family or friends in 2021 due to the borders, and Invivo shareholders.”
Tim commented, “It’s been a tough period of time, particularly for our bars and restaurant customers in both the North and South Island heavily reliant on local tourism. Running a flight to the South Island is a way that we can show the public the country is open again for domestic tourism, and at the same time support some of those who have had a particularly tough time of it.”
New Zealanders can sign up for a tippling trip here, while travelers have to wait just a wee bit to have their own swirling experience in the skies. They are promising business class in every glass, after all.