Emotions run high as Wellington welcomes first trans-Tasman flight

19 Apr 2021

Wellington Airport was awash with tears of joy as passengers on the first trans-Tasman bubble flight into the Capital finally got to hug their family and friends after a year-long wait.

Air New Zealand flight NZ0246 from Sydney landed in Wellington just after 1pm today, marking the start of the city’s quarantine-free trans-Tasman bubble with Australia.

A very special Welcome Whānau at the airport was appreciated by Aussies and Kiwis alike. It included an audio Karanga and Karakia expressing warm sentiments from Mana Whenua Te Atiawa of welcome and protection whilst in Aotearoa. There were special welcome messages throughout the terminal. It was a powerful moment entrenched in Manaakitanga, Tiaki and Kaitiakitanga.

A 250m by 12m Welcome Whānau and Tiaki promise mural was painted on the grass at the northern end of the runway. The captain of the Air New Zealand flight taxied to that end of the runway to acknowledge the return of quarantine-free travel with Australia.

Passenger Georgia was greeted by her mum Kimberley Van Oostveer. They hadn’t seen each other for 14 months and they were on the way to see her father who is unwell. Georgia says it was very exciting on the aircraft.

“Everyone clapped, and we could see the helicopter when we landed. It was exciting. I’m very happy.”

A highlight at Wellington Airport was a two-way video screen so those waiting in the terminal could see passengers in the arrival lounge. People waved, took selfies, and babies were held up to the camera as the mood of anticipation hit fever pitch.

Wellington Airport Chief Executive Steve Sanderson says airports are typically places full of emotion as people bid sweet hellos or sad farewells to friends and loved ones. But events today at Wellington Airport were on a different scale altogether.

“So many people had been waiting a long time, during trying times, to travel to Wellington to be with important people in their lives. The pent-up expectation rippled through the airport which culminated in a sea of hugs and kisses.”

WellingtonNZ General Manager Anna Calver says it was incredibly emotional watching people greet one another after more than a year apart.

“Amongst those who arrived in Wellington were people who met their grandchild for the first time, those returning to celebrate a birthday and adult children returning home to see an unwell parent.

“But no matter the reasons behind the reunions, it showed how beautiful and touching human connections are. Welcome back to Wellington whānau and friends.”

Issued by WellingtonNZ and Wellington Airport