Airlines have plenty to celebrate with the arrival on Monday of 900 Kiwis from Australia and news that self-isolation is to be lifted later this week for vaccinated New Zealanders coming from the rest of the world.
The tourism industry also breathed a sigh of relief at the Government's announcement of border control relaxations, but operators are keen to know when international visitors can return so they can plan.
Barnz, the Board of Airlines Representatives of New Zealand, said airlines will start to build more regular services again - though it will take time.
The scheduled arrival on Monday of 900 Kiwis from Australia had the whole aviation sector on a high, said Barnz executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers.
"But the announcement that self-isolation is to be lifted at midnight on Wednesday for Kiwis coming from Australia, and midnight Friday for Kiwis from the rest of the world has the sector even more optimistic that New Zealand will soon be joining the rest of the world and permanently opening to international travellers.
"Airlines will start to build more regular services again, but it is obvious that it is going to take some time. For example, even with MIQ-free flights starting, there are only 45 flights from Australia this week, whereas pre-Covid there were 330," he said.
Air New Zealand said after 246 days since the travel bubble paused, the national airline was "thrilled" to be bringing New Zealand citizens and permanent residents home from Australia to reconnect with their friends and whānau once again.
The airline had five flights arriving from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, with the first service arriving from Sydney into Auckland at 5.15pm on Monday.
Barnz said the removal of self-isolation could not have come at a more crucial moment.
Airlines were deciding whether to commit to New Zealand routes for the summer 2022-2023 season.
Some North American airlines had pulled out of these seasonal flights already, Tighe-Umbers said.
"We will be urgently updating all our members on the changes to self-isolation and urging them to put New Zealand back on their radar as soon as possible.
"Having airlines fly to this country is not only good for tourism, but also for exporters and importers. Aviation is a vital part of the New Zealand economy."
The tourism industry is also celebrating what it calls a "big step forward on the road to recovery".
But tourism businesses still need more certainty on when international visitors can come into New Zealand, Tourism Industry Aotearoa said.
"We are excited to welcome back vaccinated whānau from Australia, as well as Kiwis from the rest of the world later this week, with no requirements for self-isolation if they have a negative test. We hope these returning Kiwis will take the opportunity to enjoy a New Zealand holiday and reacquaint themselves with Aotearoa.
"However, the tourism industry's priority is the reopening of our borders to vaccinated international leisure and business travellers. We are reassured by today's decision that self-isolation is being removed for all fully vaccinated arrivals but look forward to Cabinet's review of the dates when our borders will reopen to international manuhiri."
Many parts of the tourism industry operate to long lead times. Airlines and the cruise sector in particular are currently putting in place their schedules and selling itineraries for next summer. Tourism operators also need some time to prepare their businesses for the return of international visitors, the tourism organisation said.
"The nature of the next summer season will be heavily determined by decisions taken now about New Zealand's reopening settings."
Air New Zealand: "We expect to have more than 300 flights available between New Zealand and Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast for the month of March alone. Once we have a clearer view as to the level of demand, we will adjust the schedule accordingly, but we're confident there will be seats available."
In line with the Government's requirements, the airline said all customers will need to provide evidence of a negative PCR test 48 hours before departure or a supervised RAT or LAMP test 24 hours before departure and must complete a period of home isolation upon arrival into New Zealand.
The airline's international vaccination policy came into effect on February 1 with all passengers travelling on Air New Zealand's international network now required to show proof of full vaccination.
"The easiest way for eligible customers to do this is by securely sharing their vaccination status and test results with Air New Zealand using the IATA Travel Pass app. The app will also guide travellers through what they need to know and do before departure.
"We've kept our operation ready for this. In the last few months, it's been great to bring back some of our pilots, with some cabin crew returning to training from today, as we anticipate a return to global travel. We're looking forward to welcoming the tens of thousands of Kiwis who will be making plans to board our aircraft soon."
The airline said people wanting to book to travel can do so now via the Air New Zealand website where customers with credits can also use them as a form of payment, or through their preferred travel agent.
Air New Zealand trans-Tasman flights were on sale now.
Aviation's jubilation follows the Government on Monday announcing there would be no more self-isolation for fully-vaccinated travellers returning to New Zealand from March 3.
All unvaccinated travellers will still need to complete a period in MIQ.
From 11.59pm, Wednesday, March 2, travellers will no longer need to self-isolate.
"Cabinet has agreed to lift all self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers entering New Zealand," Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement.
"That means that all Kiwis coming home and tourists entering the country will be able to step off the plane and immediately connect with family and friends and enjoy all New Zealand has to offer."
The Government has also confirmed it will bring forward Step 2 of the border reopening, so that New Zealanders from the rest of the world can return from midnight this Friday, March 4.
These travellers could previously only arrive, with self-isolation, from 11.59pm on Sunday, March 13.
Cabinet will review the timings of the remaining steps in the coming weeks. This includes temporary work and student visa holders currently outside New Zealand.
Every traveller would still need to do a RAT on the day they arrived and day five or six and all positive tests would be followed up with PCR testing.
All travellers would need to do a pre-departure test before getting on the plane. The Government had sought advice on how long that measure would be needed.
The Government's announcement on the relaxing of the country's borders will also please industries struggling to bring in skilled workers amid labour shortages.
National Road Carriers Association (NRC) chief operating officer James Smith said the move was necessary to keep New Zealand's supply chain functioning.
"We have a serious shortage of truck drivers in New Zealand and there is a very competitive global market for skilled truck drivers who can choose which countries they want to move to, as the world opens up post-Covid," said Smith.
"If we want our supply chain to keep functioning, we need to join with the rest of the world and get on with life by opening the borders so these skilled people can come into our country."
Smith said it wasn't just truck drivers that were needed, but "every sector of the economy is screaming for people".
Meanwhile Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said the Government had demonstrated flexibility and pragmatism in eliminating self-isolation for fully vaccinated, Covid- free travellers returning to New Zealand from March 3 and bringing forward the staged reopening of our borders.
"Our border still provides an early signal of incoming new strains of the virus, but Government has listened to sensible advice and recognised that circumstances have changed dramatically as Omicron spreads through the community in such numbers," he said.
"Exporters will now be able to travel and get back home without the disruption of self-isolation and for small and medium enterprises rejected by Government as critical there is some comfort," he said.
"The essential Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) that Government has been rationing are now on sale at retail outlets, so our SMEs have a fair chance of staying open, holding jobs, and earning a living."