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'Talked about this flight for decades' - Air NZ heads back to Hobart after 23-year wait

After 23 years, Tasmania is an international destination once more after the return of flights from New Zealand.

Air New Zealand's flew to Hobart International Airport this morning for this first time in 23 years. Source: istock.com

Air New Zealand flight NZ197 from Auckland touched down at Hobart International Airport slightly ahead of schedule this morning.

Air New Zealand has resumed the route after a two-decade absence, scheduling return flights twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays.

Those onboard the inaugural flight were treated with champagne and cake, with moving scenes of family reunifications at Hobart on landing.

For hard-hit tourism operators, hopes are high the new route can help restore their COVID-battered industry.

"We've been talking about this flight for decades," Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said.

"Auckland is a city of 1.5 million people. And every time you open up a new market was a direct flight to Tasmania, we generally see a tripling of visitation.

"For New Zealand, that's from 20,000 visitors each year so over time we think that will be 50,000 but it's going to take a few years to build up."

Tourism Tasmania chief executive John Fitzgerald, who was in Auckland for the occasion, called it a thrilling and historic day.

However, it may be some time before Tasmanian tourism operators notice a difference.

Thursday's flight was less than half full - which Air New Zealand attributes to tickets going on sale just a fortnight ago.

"We're excited it's getting underway but it's going to take a little bit of time to build up," Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran told AAP.

"You get that initial rush (of bookings) and then it starts to settle in and then it will build again.

"As people get more and more confidence that we've got this under control, I would expect that we're going to see more and more volume."

The last regularly scheduled international route was also an Air New Zealand service, which flew from Hobart to Christchurch until 1998.

The federal government pledged $50 million towards the return of international flights last year, much of which has gone towards an upgrade of Hobart International Airport.

Some of that funding is also underwriting Air New Zealand to take a punt on the route, which is not uncommon in the aviation industry.

Foran said he was optimistic about the route, which could lead to a third weekly flight, or the addition of a Hobart-Christchurch service.

"The loads are feeling pretty comfortable at this stage," he said.

"As we get into peak season we'll probably look to add on a third (Hobart- Auckland) flight, possibly on a Tuesday.

"My guess is that Auckland-Hobart is likely to gain momentum as people become more and more comfortable with dealing with safety issues."

The reporter travelled on the flight from Auckland to Hobart.