After nearly 400 days of international border closures, emotional reunions and ecstatic travellers were seen at airports across New Zealand and Australia, as the long-awaited Trans-Tasman bubble finally opened on 19 April morning.
Qantas and Jetstar saw 630 employees reporting back to work, with flights also resuming for all 15 routes previously flown to New Zealand. Both airlines operated a combined 29 flights carrying thousands of customers on this one day, with around 200 flights
to operate each week.
For Jetstar's first Sydney to Auckland flight at 6.15am and Qantas' Sydney to Auckland flight at 9.05am, both planes were flying at near full capacity, including a full business cabin for the latter.
Yesterday also marked Qantas new route between the Gold Coast and Auckland — the first international flight from Gold Coast Airport.
On the grass embankment of Wellington Airport's runway, giant letters spelling "Welcome Whanau" (family) greeted incoming passengers.
Speaking from Sydney International Airport to departing passengers, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the opening was not only a "milestone in the recovery from the pandemic" for both countries, but also for "aviation and tourism".
“The opening of the two-way bubble is fantastic for the family and friends who are reuniting after so long apart and for the many jobs which are so heavily dependent on tourism. It means we’ll be able to get more planes back in the sky and more of our
people back to work.
“New Zealand was Australia’s second biggest source of international visitors before the pandemic. Today, it’s about to go straight to number one."
Talks of the bubble began some time back in October, although it was mostly for entry into selected
Australian states. The first flights on 19 April marked the start of quarantine-free, unhindered two-way travel.
For Air New Zealand, the carrier saw a record sales day on the Tasman on 6 April, with "tens of thousands of Kiwis and Aussies booking flights across the ditch" following the bubble's announcement.
Similarly for Qantas, the carrier received "tens of thousands of bookings made in the first few days".
If all flies well, Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran expects to see a huge influx of Aussies entering Queenstown in July and September, "and we expect to see a bigger boost around the country for the July school holidays. It's promising to be a busy ski
season for the mountains".
Joyce said that Qantas has already added more flights to Queenstown to "meet expected demand during the peak ski season".