Jane Robson was furloughed from her dream job at Air New Zealand less than a year into it.
But late last week the flight attendant got the news she would be welcomed back with more than 170 colleagues with prospects of a transtasman and Cook Islands bubble opening up next year.
''It's just the best Christmas present ever. I haven't come down from that cloud that I'm on from yesterday, getting the email, phoning my husband. It was just amazing.''
The Auckland woman had been working for the airline for less than a year when Covid-19 hit but had got a taste of a job she didn't think of as work.
She had worked as a Telecom accounts manager and liquor licence trainer before making a career switch.
When the airline flew skeleton domestic service during alert levels 4 and 3 in April and May she still had a job but the impact of the pandemic on flying meant the airline had to cut even more staff.
''Come June it was all finally over and everybody took the approach - which I thought was very mature - that it was nobody's fault.''
Rather than taking redundancy she chose to stay connected to the airline by opting for furlough.
Robson got a minimum wage job at Ryman Healthcare through the airline's work placement scheme and as an election worker. She was prepared to dig in on the longhaul to get a job back at the airline.
''I can only say hand on my heart I was going to give it the three years. I was prepared to do all these part-time roles, contract roles, minimum wage. You've just got to make it work.''
When the furloughed crew return in February this will bring cabin crew numbers to around 1000 at the airline - just a third of the number of flight attendants a year ago.
Air New Zealand general manager of cabin crew Leeanne Langridge said those returning from furlough would pick up where they left with pay conditions and any accrued leave and travel benefits.
''You don't realise how traumatised you are going through this whole process and then when you get some good news and you're able to get people back it's just been amazing,'' she said.
She had spoken to all 175 and just two wanted to remain on furlough.
The union for cabin crew, E tū, says the airline has the chance to repair some damage done earlier this year if it gets the re-hiring process right. It is concerned that if there are not enough furloughed staff available, the process of re-hiring those made redundant may favour those with less experience rather than those who had been with the airline longer and enjoyed better pay and conditions.
E tū head of aviation, Savage, said the union was seeking a fair and transparent process free of favouritism to select returning crew.
Langridge said the airline would be transparent if it needed to rehire those made redundant from narrow-body or widebody crews.
They would be hired first on temporary contracts but said they would have the same pay and conditions as their colleagues in permanent roles.
''More than likely we will need more people but we're taking this very cautiously and the worst thing that could happen is another redundancy situation.''
The airline would re-hire using a range of criteria.
''For us it's skills, knowledge and experience. And we don't just define experience as being how long you've been somewhere.''
Since the Government outlined hopes for a transtasman bubble some time before the end of March, the worsening community outbreak of Covid-19 in Sydney had already meant changes to isolation requirements for crew on layovers in Australia. This reflected the uncertainty that airlines faced in what was a new era of flying.
This meant wearing personal protective equipment, different isolation requirements and sudden changes in schedule.
Langridge, who has twice been made redundant during a 37-year career at Air New Zealand, said she understood the pain of losing a job but was hoping staff could see a brighter future.
''If we can't create hope for the future then there's nothing that people can get their heads around to go with.''
The airline was constantly working with government agencies on how rules affect crew.
''We've got a good relationship and I think we're in a good rhythm with how we do this but we do spend a lot of time making sure that we are trying to get the best for our people.''
Prior to the latest Sydney outbreak it was hoped two-way quarantine-free travel bubbles can be established with Australia and Rarotonga by the end of March. Although the Government has not fixed a firm date for the establishment of a bubble, airlines have started loading much more capacity into their booking systems from March 28.