Australia-New Zealand travel bubble opens with joy, tears »Albuquerque Journal
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – As the passengers walked a little stunned through the airport gates, they were kissed one after another by family members who rushed forward and disbanded in tears.
Exhilaration and relief marked the opening of a long-awaited travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand at Wellington Airport on Monday. Children held balloons and banners, and indigenous Maori performers greeted the arrivals at home with songs.
The start of trips without quarantine was long for families separated by the coronavirus pandemic as well as for tourist operators in difficulty. It marked the first tentative steps towards what the two countries hope will become a gradual reopening to the rest of the world.
Danny Mather was surprised to see his pregnant daughter Kristy and grandson for the first time in 15 months after arriving by plane from Sydney for a visit on the first flight after the bubble opened. What did they say to each other?
“Not a thing,” he laughs. They just hugged. “It’s so good to see her and I’m so happy to see her again.”
Kristy Mather said it was overwhelming to be reunited with her family and it was amazing the bubble opened.
“I wish it had happened sooner, but it’s happened now,” she said. “I just wanted to take that first flight because you never know it can go south. Hopefully it will stay.
Danny Mather has said he wants to protect New Zealand from the virus, but also believes the time is right to open the bubble.
The idea of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand had been hinted at for months, but suffered setbacks due to several small outbreaks of the virus in the two countries, which were ultimately eradicated.
To mark the occasion, Wellington Airport painted a huge welcome sign near its main runway and Air New Zealand ordered some 24,000 bottles of sparkling wine, offering a free drink to adult passengers.
Air New Zealand director of operations Carrie Hurihanganui said the carrier had previously only made two or three flights a day between the two countries, but increased to 30 flights on Monday carrying 5,200 passengers.
She said the day was a turning point and people were excited.
“You can smell it at the airport and see it on people’s faces,” she says.
Leaders of both countries hailed the bubble, saying it was a high-profile arrangement as it aimed to both open borders and prevent the virus from spreading.
“Today’s milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe,” said Australian Premier Scott Morrison.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country welcomes new arrivals.
“The bubble marks an important step in reconnecting the two countries with the world and we should all take a moment to be very proud,” she said.
Travelers who lined up at Sydney and Melbourne airports early on Monday said they were excited or relieved to finally make it to New Zealand after more than a year. Some visited family and friends, while others attended the funeral.
The two countries have succeeded in preventing the virus from entering by erecting barriers on the outside world, including strict quarantine requirements for travelers returning from countries where the virus is endemic.
“They did very well with the precautions and everything, better than everyone. Everywhere else, you can’t go anywhere safe, ”said Ameera Elmasry, who was at Wellington Airport to greet her son Shady Osman, a doctor she had not seen for 16 months. “It’s very good what has happened now.”
Australia had previously allowed New Zealanders to arrive without going into quarantine, but New Zealand had taken a more cautious approach, requiring Australian travelers to undergo a quarantine.
The onset of the bubble precedes the ski season in New Zealand and is good news for many tourist towns, including Queenstown Ski Resort.