New Zealand’s first international arrivals who don't have to isolate, touched down in Auckland today as Cook islanders are now able to freely travel to and from New Zealand.
And there were heart-warming scenes as passengers from the Covid-free Pacific country were reunited with loved ones.
For passengers on flight NZ941 it was a very early check-in this morning in Rarotonga - the Covid-free Pacific country now has its own safe pathway to and from Auckland Airport.
Father of two, Mana Etches anxiously waits for his children - he hasn't seen his boys in about a year.
“They have been stationed in the Cook Islands, I haven’t seen them face to face for a year now, so I am really excited to see them,” he told 1 NEWS.
Reunited and making up for lost time, Manarii and Logan have had a growth spurt so now dad doesn't have to bend down so much for a hug.
And then it's mum's turn, taking the long-awaited hug she's been longing for and she's not letting go anytime soon.
Despite the early morning flight, travellers say it’s worth it. One woman said she hasn’t seen her husband for a year as he’s been working overseas.
Air New Zealand is putting on two flights a week to cater for Cook Islanders and it's hoped holidaying Kiwis will be able to travel to Rarotonga before the end of March.
“This is a really important first step - testing and understanding the safety protocols but [having] ongoing discussions with both governments and relevant agencies and airports to ensure when that decision is made to go two-way that we are ready to go,” says Air New Zealand’s Chief Operating Officer, Carrie Hurihanganui.
The Cook Islands flight is the only one to arrive in at Auckland International Airport with 90 minutes separating it from other flights.
The passengers had their own designated baggage carousel and even their own trolleys.
“It was a little bit emotional seeing New Zealand from the plane and I felt all the other passengers were in similar, the same sort of feelings,” incoming passenger, Ra Tangaroa said.
The journey was bittersweet for some, who are being able to reunite with seriously ill loved ones.
“Very happy to be he here without having to quarantine … it’s not for a nice reason that I am here,” Fiona Pekepo told 1 NEWS.
A team have come to swim in the Anthony Mosse Classic this weekend.
“They have never swum in a 25-metre pool so this is a big step for them,” Temaruata Strickland said.