From tomorrow, anyone who's been in New Zealand for at least two weeks will be able to fly to New South Wales and the Northern Territory in Australia, and walk free without quarantining.
More than 350 people are expected to journey to Sydney on the first day alone, on flights operated by Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar.
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said: “We know passengers on board may have been waiting a long time to get back to New South Wales. Around 90 per cent of those travelling on tomorrow’s flight are booked to travel one-way.”
Auckland Airport told 1 NEWS there’s set to be a total of 16 flights a week between the two cities.
“It's a really good proof of concept, around the travel bubble, a good first step,” said Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport’s aero commercial general manager.
General manager of operations Anna Cassels-Brown said the airport plays an “orchestrating” role in ensuring the safe travel zone can go ahead.
“I would say we probably had 90 per cent of what was required in place already.
“What [Australia was] looking for was evidence we have many layers of control to manage the risk of Covid taking hold and another community outbreak,” she said.
A big part of that is providing assurance departing and arriving passengers are kept separate, including those who’re transiting in New Zealand.
“There is an entirely seperate area where those transit passengers remain,” Cassels-Brown said.
“We’ve been able to satisfy Australian health authorities, also our Australian airport counterparts, that our controls are robust and we'll continue to look for additional measures to put in place."
Auckland Airport said since the early days of the pandemic, anti-viral cleaning throughout the terminals has been undertaken more frequently, with a focus on high-touch areas.
“It’s absolutely in our interest to make sure that Auckland Airport plays its part fully and completely to ensure there is no possibility we could have missed something that allowed the virus to take hold,” Cassel-Brown said.
The only eatery operating airside at the international terminal said it’s looking forward to the extra foot traffic tomorrow.
Emirates Leisure Retail Vantage Bar manager Timothy Mercer said they’re opening based on scheduled flight times.
They have been able to fill the restaurant from time to time, he said, but it’s been a hard few months.
“We are existing,” Mercer said.
He said, with the safe travel zone, “we're going to staff up a little and just be ready for a bit of a climb in passenger numbers”.
“We always wait with bated breath for the flight," he said.
"It's just all about being here, being present and being ready to expand as required."
More information on those eligible to travel to New South Wales as part of the Safe Travel Zone can be found here.
The requirement for all arrivals into New Zealand to undertake a 14-day quarantine remains in place.