Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — The uplifting sensation marked the beginning of the long-awaited travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand on Monday.
The start of a trip without quarantine was reassuring for families separated by the coronavirus pandemic and for struggling travelers. It marked the first tentative step towards the desire of both countries to be a gradual reopening to the rest of the world.
The idea of a bubble between Australia and New Zealand had been discussed for months, but eventually faced setbacks due to the outbreak of several small viruses in both countries that were discontinued.
To commemorate this opportunity, Wellington International Airport drew a huge welcome sign near the main runway, and Air New Zealand ordered about 24,000 bottles of sparkling wine and provided free glasses to adult passengers.
Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer Carrie Frihanganui said she used to operate only a few flights a day between the two countries, but on Monday it surged to 30 with 5,200 passengers. Told.
She said the day marked a turning point and people were excited.
“You can feel it at the airport and see it in people’s faces,” she said.
Leaders of both countries welcomed the bubble, saying it was a world-leading arrangement because it aims to both open borders and prevent the spread of the virus.
“Today’s milestones benefit both Australians and New Zealanders and help the economy while keeping people safe,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country is welcoming new arrivals.
“The bubble marks an important step in reconnecting with the worlds of both countries, which we should take some time to be very proud of,” she said.
Travelers lined up at Sydney and Melbourne airports early Monday said they were excited or relieved to finally fly to New Zealand more than a year later. Some visited family and friends, while others attended the funeral.
Both countries have succeeded in preventing the virus by creating barriers to the outside world, including strict quarantine requirements for travelers returning from other countries where the virus is widespread.
Australia previously allowed New Zealanders to arrive without entering the quarantine, but New Zealand took a more cautious approach and travelers from Australia had to complete the quarantine.
The beginning of the bubble is ahead of New Zealand’s ski season and is welcome news for many tourist destinations, including Queenstown ski resorts.