Coronavirus

Emotional scenes at Auckland Airport as first quarantine-free flights land in New Zealand

Loved ones are reunited as the first quarantine-free trans-Tasman flight touches down in Auckland from Sydney on 19 April, 2021. Source: Getty

Australia's quarantine-free travel bubble with New Zealand has officially opened, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison describing it as a "win-win" for both countries.

New Zealand's airports are the scene of celebration and reunification after the long-awaited opening of the trans-Tasman bubble.

For the first time in more than a year, Australian travellers have begun to enter New Zealand without the need to quarantine for a fortnight.

The first flight touched down at Auckland Airport at lunchtime on Monday - a Jetstar flight out of Sydney which was delayed by just over an hour.

Two dozen flights to airports around Aotearoa will follow on a day christened "Momentous Monday" by Air New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has issued a statement of welcome to the thousands of Kiwis and Australians heading across 'the ditch'.

"It is truly exciting to start quarantine-free travel with Australia," Ms Ardern said.

"Be it returning family, friends or holiday makers, New Zealand says welcome and enjoy yourself.

"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."

Earlier on Monday, departing travellers at Sydney Airport told SBS News they were eager to see family in New Zealand.

Among them was Lasi, who was heading to Wellington to surprise her 6-year-old child for the first time since the pandemic, and Casey, who was taking her young daughter Sophia home for the first time. 

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"Today's milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe and just in time for Anzac Day," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"Both countries have done a remarkable job in protecting our communities from COVID and two-way flights are an important step in our road out."

But Mr Morrison is in no rush to lift international restrictions when the COVID-19 pandemic is raging around the world.

The global death toll from coronavirus has now topped three million people and the prime minister said issues around borders and how they are managed will be handled very carefully.

"The idea on one day that everything just opens, that is not how this will happen," Mr Morrison told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

"It will be happening cautiously and carefully, working very hard on the medical and health protections in place because I'm not going to put at risk the way that Australians are living today."

All people residing in Australia or New Zealand, including foreign nationals, can use quarantine-free travel, as long as they meet the health, immigration, and other standard border clearance requirements in each country.

The easing of the border restrictions reciprocates the arrangement already in place for Kiwi arrivals, who have been able to visit Australia without undertaking quarantine for about the last six months.

While the Australia-New Zealand bubble was the "first cab off the rank", it's hoped more travel bubbles will soon follow.

Mr Morrison and Ms Ardern said travel to Pacific nations could be next as Australia and New Zealand explore opportunities to extend quarantine-free travel "when it is safe to do so".

Speaking to ABC on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the government would be having discussions about setting up further travel bubbles over the next few months.

"We want to make sure that we get international travel back to some sort of normality," he said.

"Even in the next few months, because it's so important that we get Australians to able to travel and people to be able to come here and spend their dollars and have a good time."

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