Cook Islands travel bubble: First passengers receive warm welcome after touchdown

Passengers on the first Cook Islands bubble flight were warmly welcomed after touchdown after getting in the spirit early while in the air.

A quarantine-free travel bubble officially opened on Monday with the first flight from New Zealand landing on Tuesday afternoon.

The flight departed Auckland just after 9am, and passengers were treated to mocktails and champagne before touching down.

Two travellers were heading to the Cook Islands for their wedding, and one family had packed up their life to travel the world.

But it was the landing in Rarotonga that locals there had been waiting for since they've spent 14 months without tourists.

Residents cheered from outside the terminal as they arrived, and after a traditional Cook Islands welcome, there were some happy family reunions. But those who had travelled to enjoy the sunshine are out of luck for now.

"Thanks for bringing some of the rain with you when you came, but that's okay," Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says.

Despite the rain, Kiwis were excited to travel to the Cook Islands.

"[It's] fantastic," one person says.

"Can't wait to see my mum," another adds.

Flights between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will operate two to four times a week between now and June 6, then move to operate four-five weekly services between June 7 and 27. In July, Air NZ says it will ramp up to daily services.