Cheering, champagne and tears: families reunited as Trans-Tasman travel bubble opens

Cathy Adams
·2-min read
 (Jeff McEwan)
(Jeff McEwan)

Families were reunited and passengers celebrated as the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble kicked off today.

The travel corridor allows citizens of both nations to move freely between the two countries, without the need for quarantine or Covid testing.

It officially came into force at 23.59 on 18 April, following a couple of false starts, and marks what both countries hope will be a gradual reopening to the rest of the world.

Some Australian states previously opened their borders to Kiwi visitors, but New Zealand has been largely shut to international visitors since the start of the pandemic.

At Wellington airport in New Zealand, there were huge celebrations to mark the first plane touching down in the capital.

Footage showed passengers running into arrivals and hugging others, surrounded by cheering.

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Indigenous Maori performers welcomed passengers to the city, while the airport had unveiled on the runway a huge ‘Welcome Whanau’ banner that was visible on touchdown.

Images from Auckland airport in the north island, the country’s biggest, showed families hugging and children being held by others.

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Air New Zealand, which tweeted that it was “history in the making”, ordered some 24,000 bottles of sparkling wine, offering a complimentary glass to adult passengers.

On Monday, the first day of the corridor opening, Air New Zealand ran 30 flights carrying 5,200 passengers, according to Air New Zealand's chief operating officer, Carrie Hurihanganui. Previously the carrier had flown just two or three flights a day.

“Today is a positive step towards recovery as we welcome back the first international visitors,” said René de Monchy, Tourism New Zealand’s chief executive.

“We hope that those arriving into airports across New Zealand will feel our quintessential Kiwi welcome, with examples like Wellington’s runway Welcome Whānau banner extending our manaaki. We look forward to embracing visitors and introducing them to the Tiaki Promise.”

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said: “Today's milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe.”

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said her country was welcoming the new arrivals.

“The bubble marks a significant step in both countries’ reconnection with the world and it’s one we should all take a moment to be very proud of,” she said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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