For the first time in over a year, Australian passengers flew to New Zealand without having to go through quarantine, according to news reports.
The "trans-Tasman travel bubble" helps Australians and New Zealanders to freely travel to each other's countries. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the governments of both countries placed severe restrictions on entry into their respective countries in March 2020.
"It's thrilling to be able to fly to Australia without having to pass via quarantine. New Zealand extends a warm welcome to all visitors, whether they are returning families, friends, or holidaymakers "Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, said.
People arriving from New Zealand have been able to travel to parts of Australia without being quarantined since October, but Monday was the first time they could travel to New Zealand or return without being put in two-week monitored isolation.
The first flight under the new arrangement, from Sydney to Auckland, took off on Monday morning.
The travel bubble, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, is a "win-win" situation for both countries because it allows them to improve their economies. In a joint statement, Ardern and Morrison called it a "world-leading agreement."
Once more countries in the Pacific have been deemed secure, the duo hopes to expand the quarantine-free travel bubble.
Travelers are enthusiastic about the Pacific bubble.
Hundreds of people gathered in Australian airports to prepare for their newly unrestricted flights to New Zealand, according to local television.
"People will fly quarantine-free for the first time in 400 days, and we're adding 16 return flights a day to New Zealand, and they're all loaded," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Due to intermittent outbreaks, New Zealand had waited longer to give unlimited entry to people traveling from Australia. Since the pandemic started, New Zealand has seen less than 3,000 cases.
The two prime ministers warned travelers that improvements to the arrangement could be made quickly if new COVID-19 outbreaks occurred and that the policy would be "constantly reviewed."