Nearly two hundred passengers from Sydney were reunited with family and friends in Auckland, New Zealand, after the first international flight landed in the city Monday.
The arrival marked an historic first flight of the trans-Tasman bubble, flying over the Tasman Sea, and the reopening of unrestricted travel between the two neighboring nations for the first time since early last year.
Restrictions were officially lifted at midnight Sunday. The first flight from Sydney airport to Auckland departed at 7:00 a.m. Monday after an initial delay. Jetstar flight JQ201 had a total of 176 passengers, all of whom were looking forward to going home and reuniting with their loved ones.
New arrivals from the flight went through the "green zone" and were no longer subject to mandatory hotel quarantines. The passengers were the first people to bypass the country's mandatory quarantine system.
For the first time since the pandemic, Australians and New Zealanders are now able to travel to and from the two nations without restrictions. According to reports, some people went to attend funerals, some moved to New Zealand permanently, while others were anxious to see their loved ones again.
"It's some sort of normality for me to be able to go home. I'm grateful. I've missed one funeral, one graduation. We had to live stream, but we adapted," one of the passengers told reporters.
Another passenger said she hasn't seen her family in Aukland for more than three years. One couple told reporters that they are officially moving to New Zealand today. Most of the passengers were reportedly expat Kiwis that were trapped in Australia when the pandemic spread last year.
Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern previously warned that the reopening was not permanent and its validity would depend on whether or not new outbreaks would occur on both sides. Ardern said that if a COVID-19 outbreak would occur, quarantine may be ordered by both the New Zealand and Australian governments.
The New Zealand and Australia travel bubble is the third to be successfully imposed, right after the Taiwan-Palau and the Qatar-Maldives travel bubbles. At least 21 other flights from Australia are scheduled to arrive at four New Zealand airports Monday.