A special flight from Delhi to Auckland landing on Friday morning will bring with it more than just a plane load of New Zealanders coming home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite Aotearoa's large Indian population, currently there is no direct service between the two countries and there are hopes this flight will help change that.
Auckland Airport's Scott Tasker said the first direct Air India flight between the two countries was keenly anticipated, even though in this case it was just a repatriation service.
"Any time we get a first visit from an airline on a new route, it's a big deal. Less than a year ago, we led a delegation of tourism industry leaders to India and we were working hard to develop the market," said Tasker.
"With about eight percent of Aucklanders having Indian ethnicity, we know there will be a great deal of interest in these flights from people in our community.
"I'd like to think that in the future we might see a scheduled direct flight between India and New Zealand. The bonds between our two countries are strong and our hope is that India will be a key market in the long-term recovery of New Zealand's tourism industry."
The 16-hour flight was operated using a Boeing 777-200LR and will return to India at 4am on Sunday.
It's just one of dozens organised by the Indian Government.
The 'Vande Bharat Mission' has already seen more than 45,000 Indians return home from all around the world.
The operation includes around 70 flights to and from the United States and Canada.
India's middle class is predicted to grow from 80 million in 2018 to 580 million people by 2025.
Last year, more than 65,000 Indians visited Aotearoa, with all of those having to stop-off in places such as Singapore or Australia on the way.
New Zealanders arriving on the inbound flight will be placed in a hotel under managed isolation by the Ministry of Health for 14 days.