Cheers, tears and a slice of heaven.

There have been extraordinary scenes at Queensland airports as the Sunshine State welcomed thousands of Kiwi visitors under life in the new travel bubble.

Brisbane Airport saw almost 2000 travellers head both ways across the ditch, as families wept with joy as they were reunited for the first time in over a year.

 

Dancers greet the first Air New Zealand flight arriving from Auckland to the Gold Coast. Picture Glenn Hampson
Dancers greet the first Air New Zealand flight arriving from Auckland to the Gold Coast. Picture Glenn Hampson

 

On the Gold Coast there was cake, drinks and a party atmosphere - complete with a guitarist playing the Kiwi classic Slice of Heaven, as the first arrivals from Auckland touched down at Coolangatta.

 

Gold Coast Airport CEO Chris Mills with Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O'Callaghan and Chairman Paul Donovan at Coolangatta Airport. Picture Glenn Hampson
Gold Coast Airport CEO Chris Mills with Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O'Callaghan and Chairman Paul Donovan at Coolangatta Airport. Picture Glenn Hampson

 

Sandi Bergman welcomed her New Zealand-based dad Barry Phillips with a tearful embrace in the arrivals lounge after being separated for more than a year through a period made even tougher by family tragedy.

"We've been waiting so long to see each other," said Ms Bergman.

"Mum died last year and I've been trying to get dad out here for so long."

 

. Barry Phillips meets his daughter Sandi Bergman after he arrived on the first Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Coolangatta. Picture: Glenn Hampson
. Barry Phillips meets his daughter Sandi Bergman after he arrived on the first Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Coolangatta. Picture: Glenn Hampson

 

Her dad arrived just in time for his granddaughter's 21st birthday this weekend.

Other families were brought to tears to meet baby relatives for the first time.

"It's really emotional," said Auckland's Malina Moore, who met her 13-month-old niece Lucy for the first time.

 

Friends and relatives of passengers on the first Air New Zealand flight from NZ to the Gold Coast wait for the arrival. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Friends and relatives of passengers on the first Air New Zealand flight from NZ to the Gold Coast wait for the arrival. Picture: Glenn Hampson

 

Also meeting a new addition to the family was New Zealander Lesley Eva.

She was brought to tears seeing her sister Diane Senior for the first time in over two years and was introduced to her niece's baby daughter Charlotte.

"I thought: 'I'm not going to cry, I'm not going to cry' but then I got off the plane and it just hit me," she said.

 

Lesley Eva holds her baby granddaughter Charlotte Watt and hugs her sister Diane Senior after she arrived on the Gold Coast. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Lesley Eva holds her baby granddaughter Charlotte Watt and hugs her sister Diane Senior after she arrived on the Gold Coast. Picture: Glenn Hampson

 

In Brisbane, Middle Park mum Mary Butler held back tears as she prepared to board the first quarantine-free flight from the 'River City' to New Zealand in more than a year.

The 54-year-old hasn't seen her daughter, Tia, who lives in New Zealand, in 15 months.

"It's all I've been waiting for, it's all I've been hoping and praying for is this travel bubble to happen, I can't even explain how we feel," Ms Butler said.

Mary Butler, 54, with son Flynn Butler, 18, are travelling from Brisbane to visit her daughter on the first flight to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. PICTURE: Brad Fleet
Mary Butler, 54, with son Flynn Butler, 18, are travelling from Brisbane to visit her daughter on the first flight to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. PICTURE: Brad Fleet

Tia was hospitalised after a fire at the New Zealand hotel where she works.

"I applied for an exemption (to New Zealand) because it was huge, she had to go to hospital and all the rest of it, but I couldn't go through.

"She turned 21 last week so I missed her 21st birthday."

Also taking off from Brisbane, Allanah Watling will visit her ill grandfather in hospital as well as introduce her seven-month-old baby to family when she arrives in New Zealand.

 

Peter and Allanah Watling with their seven-month-old baby Gigi and three-year-old son Archie about to board the first flight to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. PICTURE: Brad Fleet
Peter and Allanah Watling with their seven-month-old baby Gigi and three-year-old son Archie about to board the first flight to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. PICTURE: Brad Fleet

"We considered quarantining because my grandfather has been sick but it just would have been too hard," she said while checking in for the Qantas flight this morning.

"It's so important, this bubble."

Other Queenslanders are using the bubble to take their first international holiday since the pandemic struck.

Gold Coast couple Adam Hudson and Cassandra Lyons will be holidaying and scouting potential wedding venues across New Zealand for the next 10 days.

"It's awesome," Mr Hudson said.

19-04-2021 Engaged Gold Coast couple Cassandra Lyons and Adam Hudson about to board the first flight to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. PICTURE: Brad Fleet
19-04-2021 Engaged Gold Coast couple Cassandra Lyons and Adam Hudson about to board the first flight to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. PICTURE: Brad Fleet

Gold Coast Airport boss Chris Mills called the start of the bubble "a huge step" for tourism's rebound.

Gold Coast Airport will welcome 16 flights from New Zealand this week while Brisbane is expecting more than double that number.

 

Boston and Sandra Moonsamy from Auckland celebrate arriving on the first Air New Zealand flight from Auckland and kiss their daughter Adelicia Roberts who picked them up at Coolangatta. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Boston and Sandra Moonsamy from Auckland celebrate arriving on the first Air New Zealand flight from Auckland and kiss their daughter Adelicia Roberts who picked them up at Coolangatta. Picture: Glenn Hampson

 

Around 1800 seats are scheduled to operate each way at Brisbane Airport today, with services forecast to be around 80 per cent full.

But Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan De Graaff said the airport is at just over a third of its pre-COVID capacity between Brisbane and New Zealand.

Mr De Graaff said people visiting friends and family are expected to drive demand within the first few weeks of the travel bubble but concedes other sectors of the travel market will take longer to come back.

Jake Dolan was taking his nephews Jagger Travers, 4, and Cash Travers, 10, to visit their grandparents on the first flight to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. PICTURE: Brad Fleet
Jake Dolan was taking his nephews Jagger Travers, 4, and Cash Travers, 10, to visit their grandparents on the first flight to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. PICTURE: Brad Fleet

"The initial pent-up demand has resulted in 40 services operating between Brisbane and New Zealand this week, and we expect leisure flows to peak in the mid-year school holidays and again at Christmas and New Year," he said.

" … The reality is that we will still only have just over a third of pre-COVID capacity between Brisbane and New Zealand.

"High-yield travellers such as the corporate and conference sectors will not return in the same way just yet.

 

The Gracie Family from Auckland celebrate arriving on the first Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to the Gold Coast. They are Alex and Mark Gracie with children Marcella, 6, and Angus, 4. Picture: Glenn Hampson
The Gracie Family from Auckland celebrate arriving on the first Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to the Gold Coast. They are Alex and Mark Gracie with children Marcella, 6, and Angus, 4. Picture: Glenn Hampson

 

"To protect the 'bubble' and to make real the possibility of opening to more international markets, we need to get Australia's vaccination rollout back on track and firing on all cylinders. We need all levels of government and the industry to work together to make this happen."

Return flights from Brisbane to Auckland currently average between $400 and $600.

Qantas are charging $510 for an economy one-way flight from Brisbane to Auckland but prices decrease down to $300 from May.

 

Originally published as Emotional scenes as Qld welcomes first NZ bubble flights



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