Families reunited in emotional scenes on Monday as Australia and New Zealand launched a quarantine-free travel bubble that opened the border almost 400 days after its pandemic-enforced closure.
There were group hugs and enthusiastic welcomes at airport terminals on both sides of the Tasman Sea as the long-awaited bubble sparked joy and relief.
On a grass embankment at the foot of Wellington Airport's runway, the words “WELCOME WHANAU” (family) were spelled out in giant letters and Maori dancers performed a traditional greeting in the terminal.
The bubble, which followed months of negotiations between the largely coronavirus-free neighbours, was hailed as a major milestone in restarting a global travel industry that has been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The arrangement means that for the first time since Covid-19 closed borders worldwide, passengers can fly between Australia and New Zealand without undergoing mandatory quarantine on arrival.
Header image: A woman (R) hugs a family member before his departure for New Zealand at Sydney International Airport on April 19. — AFP