Gold Coast Airport welcomes first NZ flight as travel bubble opens

A passenger arriving from Sydney at the Wellington International Airport hugs a loved one in Wellington New Zealand Monday. — AP

A worker at Auckland airport has returned a positive test result for COVID-19, but New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she does not expect it to shut down quarantine-free travel across the Tasman.

Qantas will ramp up flights between the countries to about 200 each week, while Air New Zealand said it had quadrupled its flights to 30 on Monday, with its airplanes flying into New Zealand 97% full.

There were 15 flights into Auckland and 17 departures.

Australia is home to hundreds of thousands of expatriate New Zealanders and before coronavirus many regularly shuttled back and forth across the Tasman on three-hour flights.

Passengers arriving in Auckland were met with "Welcome Whanau" signs - the Maori term for family - and a choir provided a score for emotional reunions.

"Right now, it's one-way traffic, with nearly three times as much travel going to New Zealand as in the opposite direction", said Olivier Ponti, vice president insights at travel data firm ForwardKeys. Australia accepts that, ' Ms Ardern said on Tuesday.

When asked what was the first thing he said to her, he replied: "Not a thing". But they have kept their borders closed to the rest of the world, in principle only allowing citizens and permanent residents to enter following a 14-day mandatory quarantine in a hotel.

A giant sign painted near the main runway of the Wellington International Airport greets travellers returning home in Wellington New Zealand Monday April 19. The sign reads “Welcome Whanau” with the second word an Indigenous Maori word meaning famil

Ardern reassured the public that the case won't affect the travel bubble and Health Minister Andrew Little has spoken to his Australian counterpart about the border-related case. - AP A family reunites upon their arrival from New Zealand at Sydney International Airport on April 19.

She said the day marked a turning point and people were excited, adding: "You can feel it at the airport and see it on people's faces". - AFP A family takes photos before their flight for New Zealand at Sydney International Airport on April 19.

The bubble provides a new lease on life to airlines and airports.

Tourism operators urged governments on both sides of the Tasman Sea to ensure that the bubble stays open, which would help bolster consumer confidence in booking travel.

With the borders open, Ardern said Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison would visit New Zealand in the "not too distant future".

There are no other new cases in managed isolation or in the community announced today.

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