Thousands of passengers have descended on Australian airports today as the country reopened quarantine-free travel with New Zealand for the first time in more than a year.
The new travel bubble means travellers no longer need to self-isolate for two weeks when moving between the countries.
While most Australian states had allowed quarantine-free visits from New Zealand since late last year, New Zealand had enforced a costly two-week hotel isolation for visitors from its nearest neighbour, due to concerns about fresh virus outbreaks.
Both nations have largely avoided outbreaks and boast some of the lowest Covid-19 death tolls in the world.
TV footage showed hundreds of people crowding the international departure terminals at Australian airports.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said his airline was putting on 16 extra return flights per day to New Zealand, adding that they were all full.
The reopening of the border means thousands will be reunited with family and friends for the first time, while it will also bring an economic boost for both countries.
“It is truly exciting to start quarantine-free travel with Australia. Be it returning family, friends or holiday-makers, New Zealand says welcome and enjoy yourself,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Both Australia and New Zealand largely closed their borders to non-citizens and permanent residents more than a year ago, helping to keep infection rates relatively low.
In a joint statement Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the rules could change in the event of fresh Covid outbreaks, saying quarantine-free travel would be under “constant review”.
But they also raised the possibility of extending quarantine-free travel to other countries in the Pacific region when it was safe to do so.
René de Monchy, Tourism New Zealand chief executive sid: “Today is a positive step towards recovery as we welcome back the first international visitors. We hope that those arriving into airports across New Zealand will feel our quintessential Kiwi welcome, with examples like Wellington’s runway Welcome Whānau [family] banner extending our manaaki [hospitality]”.