Published on : Tuesday, April 20, 2021
The long awaited Trans-Tasman bubble between Australia and New Zealand officially opened on Monday, April 19 as the first flights landed at the Wellington Airport in New Zealand earlier last morning. Scenes of joy and relief washed over the airport as families were reunited and people embraced each other rushing forward to meet their close one and bursting into tears.
Children held balloons and banners and Indigenous Maori performers welcomed the arrivals home with songs. The Wellington International Airport greeted back travellers with a unique ‘Welcome Whanau’ enormous arrival sign near its main runway, a collaborative effort between Air New Zealand, Wellington NZ and Wellington Airport with support from New Zealand Māori Tourism and Tourism New Zealand. Air New Zealand ordered around 24,000 bottles of sparkling wine, offering a complimentary glass to adult passengers.
The move marks an important milestone for residents of the two countries who have not been able to freely travel between the two nations since early 2020. The start of quarantine-free travel was a long anticipated for families who have been separated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to struggling tourist operators. It marked the first important steps toward what both Australia and New Zealand hope will become a gradual reopening to the rest of the world.
Both the countries have been talking about introducing a travel bubble for months but received repeated setbacks due to several small coronavirus outbreaks in both Australia and New Zealand. The leaders of both nations welcomed the bubble, saying it was a world-leading arrangement because it aimed to both open borders and keep the virus from spreading. Australian Prime Scott Morrison said in a statement that the milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders that will boost the economies of the countries while keeping the people safe.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country was welcoming the new arrivals and shared that the bubble marks a significant step in both countries’ reconnection with the world and is one that everyone should take a moment to be very proud of. Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive René de Monchy added that the action is a positive step towards recovery as the country welcomes back its first international visitors.
Air New Zealand’s Chief Operating Officer Carrie Hurihanganui said the carrier had previously been running just two or three flights a day between the two countries but that jumped to 30 flights on Monday carrying 5,200 passengers. She said the day marked a turning point and the excitement can be seen on people’s faces. Travelers who lined up at Sydney and Melbourne airports early Monday said they were excited or relieved to finally fly to New Zealand after more than a year. Some were visiting family and friends, while others were attending funerals.
Both countries have managed to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus by placing barriers to the outside world, including strict quarantine requirements for travelers returning from other countries where the virus is highly active. Australia had previously allowed New Zealanders to arrive without going into quarantine but New Zealand had taken a more cautious approach, requiring travelers from Australia to complete a quarantine period.