For the first time in more than a year, New Zealand airports will open their doors to quarantine-free arrivals from Australia on Monday.
The travel bubble officially starts at 11.59 p.m. on Sunday, as announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week, expressing confidence in Australia and New Zealand's ability to handle the arrangement.
Passengers arriving from Australia would have flown on flights where they will not have come into touch with passengers from other countries. Green zone flights have no passengers from anywhere other than Australia in the previous 14 days and are operated by crews who have not flown any high-risk routes for a specified period of time.
Flights between Auckland and Australia will increase tenfold in the first few weeks of the travel bubble, according to Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood, a "massive improvement" from the previous year.
"I believe there will be tens of thousands of passengers on day one," she says, "and we're seeing flight numbers rise by ten times to around 400 flights between Auckland and Australia in the first few weeks."
Littlewood said there would be celebrations for the first flights in.
"We'll have a few little Kiwi touches to acknowledge that a lot of passengers on those first flights will probably be Kiwis returning home to see relatives, and I think a lot of those people were anxious to come back, so we'll have a few little Kiwi touches to acknowledge that."
"It'll be an emotional moment, but one that we've been anticipating for a year, and I'm sure these people have as well."
Travelers to or from New Zealand must fill out a pre-departure health declaration and must not have had a positive Covid-19 test result in the previous 14 days or be awaiting one.
Passengers will be required to wear masks, be ready for random temperature tests, and will be unable to fly if they have signs of a cold or flu.
"There may be additional aspects of the process that people may not be familiar with," Littlewood said. "We're encouraging people to do some homework before they go, check with their airline, check online with the information that's available so they're ready to fly and that will minimize any delays on the day."
The airport's stores, which employed 2500 people, have largely shut down, but duty-free will remain open, and Littlewood expects other retail outlets to reopen gradually.
Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said this week that three recent Covid-19 cases in Auckland did not pose a threat to trans-Tasman travel.
'Limited public transportation options'
When the bubble bursts, most flights from Australia will be "green zone" services, essentially blocking New Zealanders returning from other countries from transiting through the region.
If they decided to return via Australia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said they would have to obtain permission to enter the country and complete 14 days of controlled isolation there.
"We are aware that once quarantine-free travel begins, most airlines are preparing to operate only green flights from Australia to New Zealand," a spokesperson said.
"Travelers will need permission to reach Australia and complete 14 days of MIQ there before boarding one of these green flights."
They will not be able to board flights to Australia without that permission, according to the ministry.
"We understand that fewer transit options will pose challenges for Kiwis in some destinations, especially where routes back to New Zealand rely on transits through Australia and New Zealand," the spokesperson said.
"Officials are in talks with Australia to come up with a solution." It is, however, a business decision for each airline to operate those types of flights."
According to Littlewood, this has eliminated one choice for travelers, but they can still transit through Asian hubs or Dubai.
"What's most important is that we're reassuring people that flights to and from New Zealand and Australia are safe."
"Those would be green-designated flights, which offer people hope that the passengers on those flights have been in those countries for at least 14 days, allowing them to continue traveling."