As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19

The highly-anticipated opening of the trans-Tasman bubble has jet-setters across New Zealand breathing a sigh of relief.

Thousands are expected to travel between New Zealand and Australia on Monday, with citizens now able to commute between the two countries quarantine-free.

What you need to know:

  • New Zealanders can travel to any Australian state and territory without having to undergo quarantine, while Australians can also travel here and not go into managed isolation
  • Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Jetstar are offering quarantine-free flights, also known as "green flights" across the ditch
  • To be eligible to travel to Australia quarantine-free, New Zealanders need to have already been in the country for 14 days or more, and not have been near a COVID-19 hotspot
  • Thousands are expected to reconnect with loved ones or make international getaways across the Tasman
  • For a comprehensive guide to the trans-Tasman bubble, click here.

This article is no longer being updated - more on Newshub Live at 4:30pm, 6pm and at Newshub.co.nz.

1:30pm - To recap: Tears have flowed at Auckland Airport as the first trans-Tasman passengers reunite with their loved ones.

 The Jetstar flight from Sydney touched down 12:30pm and to add to the emotion, a band sang Dave Dobbyn's 'Welcome Home' as the arrivals entered through the gates. 

1:18pm - Best friends reunite as the trans-Tasman bubble bursts.

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Madison Reidy/Newshub.

1:03pm - Hugs and tears are starting to flow at at the arrivals terminal as visibly emotional families reunite for the first time in months. There are plenty of smiles and celebration as well.

1pm - More passengers are slowing starting to make their way from customs into the arrivals lounge.

12:50pm - There's a round of applause as the first passengers make their way into the arrivals lounge.

12:46pm - Dave Dobbyn's 'Welcome Home' is being performed in the arrivals lounge at Auckland International Airport as passengers undergo their final customs checks.

12:36pm - The flight is now docked on Auckland Airport's tarmac - passengers are just moments from disembarking.

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Blair Martin/Newshub.

12:26pm - And it's here! The first trans-Tasman bubble flight from Australia to New Zealand has touched down on NZ soil.

Jetstar flight JQ201 has arrived in Auckland from Sydney after an hour delay.

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Madison Reidy/Newshub.
As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Newshub.

12:19pm - It's time! The first New Zealand-bound flight from Australia is due to touch down in Auckland in just a few minutes. You can watch live here.

12:10pm - Newshub's Madison Reidy is at Auckland Airport where people are anxiously waiting for the first New Zealand-bound trans-Tasman bubble flight to land.

"Everyone is looking pretty nervously excited," she says.

12:05pm - Residents of Aotearoa's main centres will be noticing the return of a once familiar sound as the roaring engines of aircraft fly travellers to and from Australia for the first time in more than a year.

Read travel editor Dan Lake's full report here.

12pm - The first New Zealand-bound trans-Tasman bubble flight is due to land in Auckland in about 20 minutes.

11:45am - Before departing Sydney for Auckland, Newshub Australia correspondent Emma Cropper said the international departure lounge was busy.

"A lot of these people that are travelling - they're travelling to reunite with family after what has been a few very tough, tough months."

11:30am - Speaking from Auckland Airport, Newshub's Madison Reidy says people have started to arrive to greet their loved ones landing on the first flight from Australia.

The flight - Jetstar JQ201 between Sydney and Auckland - was delayed by an hour and will now land at about 12:20pm.

11:15am - The first trans-Tasman bubble flight has arrived in Sydney from Auckland.

Newshub's Lisette Reymer, who was on the flight, says their temperatures were checked on arrival.

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Newshub.

11:05am - One woman Newshub spoke to struggled to hold back tears as she talked of her joy at the bubble opening.

Leanne Wilson dropped her granddaughter off at Auckland Airport and says it's an emotional time.

She says her granddaughter hasn't seen her mum since January last year.

"We tried twice to get her on flights," she told Newshub. "This time - third time lucky."

11am - The trans-Tasman bubble has been a long-time coming for businesses within Auckland Airport's international terminal.

Loop Duty Free is among those now able to welcome customers beyond security after more than a year of border closures.

Retail operations manager Melanie Rutherford says staff are energised and ready to go.

 "There's been in excess of about 700 people walk through our doors today," she told Newshub.

10:43am - Australia's Channel 7 will be covering the bubble's opening from this side of the Tasman, with Sunrise reporter Bianca Stone making the trip over. 

10:32am - Air New Zealand has confirmed its first flight out of Australia has departed and will land in Wellington at 1pm.

"It was quite the emotional rollercoaster here in Sydney. The check-in area was a hive of activity and at the boarding gate, customers were eager to get on," Air NZ short haul inflight service manager Craig Suckling says.

10:27am - The first trans-Tasman bubble flight from Australia to New Zealand will touch down on our soil on Monday afternoon.

Jetstar flight JQ201 between Sydney and Auckland was delayed by an hour after passengers failed to present the required travel documents at check-in.

As a result, the flight is expected to land at Auckland Airport at 12:20pm.

10:10am - In other news, the Government has provided details of how hundreds of families who were separated by the border closure can be reunited under new border exemptions, as Newshub revealed

Read the full details from Newshub digital political reporter Zane Small here.

10:06am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Australia will be informed when it's decided New Zealand will open a travel bubble with the Cook Islands - which is expected to be next month.

"We would absolutely talk to Australia before making decisions like that," she told The AM Show earlier. "We've talked to them about the Cooks." 

Ardern.
Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub.

10:02am - Businesses at Auckland Airport are ecstatic to be welcoming customers on Monday thanks to the trans-Tasman bubble.

Loop Duty Free is opening beyond airport security for the first time in months and retail operations manager Melanie Rutherford says three flight loads of people have already been through.

"There's a real excitement and buzz about people being able to travel out and our staff are incredibly energetic," she told Newshub.

The Travelex foreign currently exchange also had 23 customers within an hour - usually it has about eight per day.

10am - Australia's national carrier Qantas says it will be serving more than 5000 pavlovas in its first class lounges this week to celebrate the bubble's opening.

9:50am - National leader Judith Collins is speaking out against the Government's reluctance to open a bubble with the Pacific Islands.

9:45am - Jenna Raeburn, corporate affairs general manager at Wellington Airport, says there was a great atmosphere in the terminal on Monday morning.

"It was a pretty smooth take-off this morning and everyone was really excited," she told RNZ's Morning Report. 

9:40am - Passengers onboard the first flight from Sydney to Auckland on Monday had to wait just that little bit longer for their bubble journey to begin when its departure was delayed for up to an hour.

Read the full story from travel editor Dan Lake here.

9:30am - In a joint statement earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australia PM Scott Morrison said both countries were exploring opportunities to expand the trans-Tasman bubble further when it's safe to do so.

"Both countries have done a remarkable job in protecting our communities from COVID and two-way flights are an important step in our road out," said Morrison.

"It is truly exciting to start quarantine-free travel with Australia," added Ardern.

9:15am - Air New Zealand chief operating officer Carrie Hurihanganui told RNZ's First Up travellers were excited to see family and friends.

She says it's also been a boost for airline staff.

"When the announcement was made earlier this month, there was certainly a lift of spirits," she told RNZ.

"We had a number of cabin crew and pilots that were ready to go but we have actually rehired and retrained a number of our cabin crew as well as brought on airport staff across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch as well."

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Nick Estelrich/Newshub.

9:05am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is excited quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel is underway.

But it's not enough to spark further travel bubbles other than the Cook Islands - with an opening planned for next month.

Ardern earlier told The AM Show Fiji has also been keen for quarantine-free travel but it's unlikely in the near future.

"We've been prioritising," Ardern said. "For us, it was about making sure what we were doing, we were doing well.

"I think we were right to prioritise where we have."

9am - Where should New Zealand open a travel bubble next? Vote in Newshub's straw poll here. 

8:45am - BBC Australia correspondent Shaimaa Khalil, who's travelling to New Zealand from Sydney International Airport, says it's an emotional moment for many people.

8:30am - Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran says the airline has been hanging out for this day.

"We are going to have just over a couple of thousand Kiwis heading across the Tasman and just over three thousand coming back this way on Air New Zealand planes - and that's just terrific," he told RNZ.

8:15am - Earlier on The AM Show, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned not to expect a shower of travel bubbles now the Australian corridor is open.

She says a similar arrangement with the Cook Islands is due next month but that's it for now.

"We have had requests from the likes of Fiji but beyond what we've got at the moment, we haven't got further plans for elsewhere."

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Nick Estelrich/Newshub.

8am - The trans-Tasman bubble was meant to reunite best friends and Newshub colleagues, Lisette Reymer and Emma Cropper.

But due to the timing of the first flights between Australia and New Zealand, the closest they will get to each other may be a passing wave as their flights wizz past each other in opposite directions.

Reporting from Auckland International Airport on Monday morning, Reymer said everyone at the airport was in an amazing mood, and travel things that used to seem tedious were actually fun.

Across the Tasman, Australia correspondent Emma Cropper said she walked into Sydney's International Airport yelling "happy trans-Tasman bubble day!"

Read more here.

7:55am - To recap what we just heard from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - she says plans are already afoot for another travel bubble, the next one with the Cook Islands.

She told The AM Show that bubble should open next month.

"We haven't set a date - [it will be] May," Ardern said. "I know the Cook Islands Prime Minister wants it to be right at the beginning but, for instance, they're still in the process of setting up their PCR testing and training so they can operate that for surge testing."

7:50am - And the second Australia-bound flight has departed - this time from Auckland. The first was out of Wellington earlier this morning.

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Emma Stanford/Newshub.

7:47am - On India travel ban, Ardern says New Zealand is on track to lift restrictions next week despite rising cases in the Asian nation.

7:43am - PM Ardern says New Zealand will have discussions with Australia on any other potential travel bubble arrangements.

7:42am - Ardern says Cook Islands will be next country for quarantine-free travel - expected sometime in May.

She says there's no further plans for other Pacific countries at this stage.

Little tropical island (Motu Maina, that means "Sunset Island" in Maori local language), bording the gorgeous Aitutaki lagoon, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. Picture taken from a moving boat (blurred foreground).
Photo credit: Getty

7:40am - PM Ardern says she expects plenty of joy on Monday. She says tourism industry should start to pick up by July.

Auckland Airport on Monday morning.
Auckland Airport on Monday morning. Photo credit: Lauren Hendricksen/The AM Show

7:39am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on The AM Show now - watch live here.

7:38am - The trans-Tasman travel bubble represents one of the pandemic's biggest and most significant developments, says The AM Show host Duncan Garner. Read his column here.

7:35am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to appear on The AM Show in the next five minutes - you can watch that live here. 

In a statement earlier on Monday morning, she the trans-Tasman bubble opening marked an exciting day.

"The bubble marks a significant step in both countries reconnection with the world and it's one we should all take a moment to be very proud of."

7:25am - The trans-Tasman bubble has officially opened, and calls for Kiwis to keep scanning with the COVID-19 tracer app have been renewed.

On Monday, New Zealand's borders opened to Australia quarantine free. And as New Zealand prepares to welcome the Aussies back, one expert is urging Aotearoa not to get complacent.

Andrew Chen, a research fellow with Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures, told Newshub it's never been more important to track where you've been.

Read the full story here.

7:20am - Queenstown Lakes District Mayor is encouraging Australians to not only come for a holiday but consider doing their OE in the resort town.

"I think we're getting a pretty good reaction," he told The AM Show. "We've lost about 2000 of our migrant workforce - we've got some staff shortages in the place."  

7:15am - There's excitement at airports on both sides of the Tasman as the bubble opens at last.

Newshub reporter Lisette Reymer is heading to Sydney from Auckland and says everyone at the terminal is in a great mood.

And speaking from Sydney Airport, due to board a flight to Auckland, Newshub Australia correspondent Emma Cropper says it can't be underestimated how exciting the bubble is.

"I'm very much looking forward to jumping in that line behind me."

Excited staff at Auckland Airport on Monday morning.
Excited staff at Auckland Airport on Monday morning. Photo credit: Lauren Hendricksen/The AM Show

7:01am - One passenger at Auckland Airport travelling to Australia told Newshub she's been struggling to contain her excitement for the past two weeks.

"[It's been] all smiles since they said the borders are free [of] quarantine - I've just been over the moon."

7am - In less than half an hour, the first quarantine-free flight from Auckland to Australia is due to take off.

The Jetstar check in at Sydney International Airport on Monday.
The Jetstar check in at Sydney International Airport on Monday. Photo credit: Emma Cropper/Newshub.

6:37am - Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult told The AM Show the impending arrival of international tourists is fantastic with winter on the horizon.

"If the bubble stays open and the weather gods treat us appropriately, I think we're probably going to have the best ski season we've ever had - and we need that."

6:33am - The first flight to Australia has left Wellington and the first out of Auckland is less than an hour away.

Emotions are running high at Auckland Airport, with one woman - about to meet her grandchild for the first time - unable to hold back tears when she spoke to The AM Show reporter Lauren Hendricksen.

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Lisette Reymer/Newshub.

6:30am - A long-awaited family reunion is now only hours away for Meg Fraser as the trans-Tasman bubble opens.

The Christchurch resident is one of thousands of passengers taking quarantine-free flights between New Zealand and Australia on Monday.

Fraser told Newshub she's been desperate to head across the ditch.

"As soon as the travel bubble opened I booked a flight straight away."

6:20am - Speaking from Queenstown Airport, district Mayor Jim Boult said it was an exciting day.

"What an exciting day ahead of us - that's the mood in Queenstown at the present time," he told The AM Show.

6:15am - Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told citizens there's no rush to reopen its border to countries other than New Zealand.

And in a joint statement with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, he said the bubble's a win-win for both countries.

"Both countries have done a remarkable job in protecting our communities from COVID and two-way flights are an important step in our road out."

Morrison and Ardern.
Morrison and Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

6:10am - Speaking from Auckland International Airport, The AM Show reporter Lauren Hendricksen says the first flight to leave the city for Australia is at 7:30am - an Air New Zealand service bound for Sydney. 

The first flight to New Zealand from Australia will land in Auckland at 11:20am where an official welcome has been planned.

6:05am - The first passengers to board flights under the trans-Tasman bubble concede they're taking a risk.

Meg Fraser is flying to Australia on Monday morning and says the move doesn't come without some concerns.

"I think that if there was an issue the borders wouldn't be open," she told Newshub. "The only thing I'm a little bit worried about is if there is an outbreak - in which case I'd be stuck in Australia."

6am - The first flight out of New Zealand to Australia is expected to takeoff at 6:05am - from Wellington to Sydney.

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Getty

5:50am - Meanwhile, a health researcher is urging New Zealanders to take contact tracing seriously.

Data from the Ministry of Health shows nearly 3 million Kiwis have the COVID Tracer App with only about 700,000 regular users.

Andrew Chen, from the University of Auckland, says the importance of contact tracing is about to get even greater.

"We all need to get back to it with the travel bubble opening," Dr Chen told Newshub. "We never know where the next case might come from.

"It is a preventative action that we do need to take."

Dr Chen suggests adding more languages to the COVID Tracer app may help.

5:43am - The trans-Tasman bubble could be a step towards quarantine-free travel to and from the Pacific.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australia PM Scott Morrision say they're exploring opportunities to expland the bubble further when safe to do so.

"Ensuring the safety of our populations continues to be a primary consideration in managing our borders. In this evolving pandemic, the risks of quarantine-free travel will be under constant review," they said in a joint statement on Monday.

5:33am - Newshub's Lisette Reymer says there's plenty of tears and excitement at Auckland Airport's international terminal as people travelling to see loved ones, business people, and holidaymakers await the first flight out to Australia.

As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Emma Stanford/Newshub.
As it happened: NZ border reopens to Australia for first time since COVID-19 pandemic - Monday, April 19
Photo credit: Lisette Reymer/Newshub.

5:30am - Meg Fraser is one of the New Zealanders travelling to Australia on Monday. She says the bubble is a long time coming.

"All of my family is living in Perth," she told Newshub. "It's been a year and a half since I've seen my family."