More than 12,000 people are booked to fly out of Auckland on Air New Zealand on Wednesday when internal travel restrictions are lifted from the city four months after they were imposed.
Auckland Airport is advising passengers to be at the terminal an hour before scheduled departure times.
Popular routes are Auckland to Christchurch, with 1700 passengers - who must be vaccinated or produce evidence of negative Covid-19 test - booked to travel on Wednesday.
More than 1200 customers are booked to fly to Queenstown from Auckland on Wednesday. Nelson is also a popular spot, with 400 customers booked to fly to the region on Wednesday.
The airline says there is still availability on many flights travelling to South Island destinations.
Auckland Airport says that from around 600 passengers a day at the depths of lockdown - following the MIQ failure in August - numbers will peak at close to 27,000 on the busiest days of summer.
When Auckland plunged into lockdown 16 weeks ago Auckland Airport time-travelled back to 1966, with fewer passengers through the terminals each day than the year the airport first opened.
Now the airport is preparing for an estimated 4000 per cent increase in domestic traveller numbers, as the country's largest city looks forward to opening again to the rest of New Zealand for summer.
"After four months of near empty terminals we can't wait to see the buzz and excitement of domestic travel return, with safety being the number one priority and vaccine passes or a negative Covid test being part of the new summer normal," said Anna Cassels-Brown, general manager operations.
Operational teams had been working around the clock to ready the domestic terminal for the summer holiday season, with passenger numbers expected to ramp up to just under 27,000 on the busiest days – exceeding the peak day of the July school holidays.
Since Auckland's lockdown began in August, domestic travel dwindled to around 600 passengers a day from the 23,000 domestic passengers flying in and out of Auckland Airport each day in the weeks just prior to travel restrictions coming into effect.
Based on forecasts those days leading up to Christmas from December 22 onward are when a lot of people will be travelling in and out of Auckland Airport, with first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and the early evening particularly busy.
But even those first days after the Auckland border opens should see a lot of travellers, with close to 30 per cent more travellers than the same time last year.
''We just need everyone to be prepared for that experience, including allowing more time pre-departure," said Cassels-Brown.
The end to the Auckland domestic border brings extra layers of health protection and procedures to travel, including a requirement to hold evidence of vaccination or recent negative Covid-19 test.
These are additional to the need to scan available QR codes, wash hands frequently, and come ready with a mask which must be worn in the airport terminal and on flights.
If passengers are not feeling well or think they might have Covid-19, they should avoid travelling.
"I know our people are excited to be welcoming more travellers back into the terminal, but we ask that everyone prepares for a slightly different travel experience. Even if you've been a frequent flyer in the past, please make sure you get familiar with the new processes before you arrive at the airport," said Cassels-Brown.
Airlines are asking passengers to check-in online, have their My Vaccine Pass downloaded or proof of a negative Covid-19 test ready, and to be at the airport an hour before departure.
"Everyone at the airport will be making sure you are processed quickly, but it's possible that during peak times there will be more queuing – please be patient and know that we're working hard to get you to your destination safely'' she said.
"And if you need any assistance, look out for our staff or call in at the helpdesk between the Air NZ check-in area and baggage reclaim."
The domestic terminal's food and beverage and retail outlets will reopen, but vaccination passes will be required at some eateries in line with the Government Covid-19 protection framework.
Airport tips for flying:
• Before leaving home, check-in online and have your My Vaccine Passes downloaded and ready, and a mask to wear in the airport terminal.
• New processes to check vaccination and testing status may mean added wait times at the airline check-in. Passengers are advised to make sure they're at the airport an hour before flight departure time.
• It's possible there'll be some extra time spent standing in line, especially first thing in the morning, around lunchtime and in the early evening on our busy days.''
• It is possible for non-travellers to enter the terminal, however, it ''would be great if you could use the pick-up / drop-off area for a "kiss-and-go" farewell or the wait zone for pick-up when you're meeting or farewelling friends and family.''
• Car parks have reopened, including Park & Ride, so try and book your parking ahead
Busiest days for domestic travel at Auckland Airport:
• Thursday, December 23
• Wednesday, December 22
• Friday, December 24
• Monday, December 27
• Tuesday, December 28
• Friday, December 17
• Sunday, January 2
•Thursday, December 16
• Sunday, December 26
• Sunday, January 9
Queenstown Airport is set to welcome and farewell domestic travellers from Auckland again from Wednesday, after a four-month pause.
On Wednesday it will have been 117 days without full passenger flights between Auckland and Queenstown Airport where chief executive Glen Sowry said he is thrilled to welcome planes and passengers back from up north.
"The day I started in my role as CEO there wasn't a single plane flying and while the Christchurch and Wellington services returned soon after and brought some welcome activity back, it's been a relatively quiet airport. Reconnecting with Auckland, our biggest domestic market, is definitely an important step in our region's recovery.''
From Wednesday Queenstown was expecting about three times as many daily flights compared to the last few months without Auckland flights."
Peak days will be December 24 with 46 flights scheduled to arrive and depart, and January 2 with 45 flights scheduled.
"About 160,000 passengers will travel through Queenstown Airport between 15 December and 14 January, including locals heading away for a break and visitors coming to enjoy this stunning part of the world.
"In the lead-up to the busy festive season, we have taken a number of steps to ensure we are prepared with multiple layers of protection.
"We will be regularly screening our team using Rapid Antigen Testing over the summer after running a successful trial alongside 24 other businesses nationally.
"The elevated cleaning and hygiene protocols throughout the terminal will continue, focusing on high-touch surfaces and high-traffic zones.
"We are implementing a vaccination policy for our staff and contractors. Covid-19 vaccination rates across the whole airport campus are very high. The Queenstown Lakes District has done a phenomenal job with vaccination rates, which is key to keeping people safe as Kiwis travel over Summer."
With a busier airport, those travelling out of Queenstown are encouraged to arrive at the airport at least 60 minutes prior to departures to allow plenty of time to check in and go through screening.
The airport is operating under the Orange setting of the 'traffic light' system and is following Ministry of Transport (MoT) guidelines specifically for airport terminals.
What Orange looks at Queenstown Airport:
• Everyone entering the terminal needs to sign in or scan in on the Covid Tracer app
• Face coverings continue to be required in-terminal and on flights for those aged 12 and over, except when eating or drinking
• There are very specific rules for airports under the guidelines, so some operations may differ from other businesses - for example, airport food and beverage outlets are not required to check vaccine passports, however they may choose to
• People are allowed to enter the terminal to farewell or meet and greet friends and family
• People will not be required to show vaccine passports to enter the terminal but some food and beverage and retail outlets may require it
• Air New Zealand will require passengers to provide proof of vaccine or a negative test and they've got a smart way of linking your vaccine pass with their AirNZ app.
Queenstown Airport says its Manaia Lounge is reopening for domestic travellers
The Manaia Lounge will be open for domestic passengers from December 15.
The lounge is offering a special rate of $25 adult and $10 child (2yr-11yr) for those departing from Queenstown between December 15 and December 31. Vaccine passes will be required.
Manaia Lounge Manager Kellie Clarke says this is a one-off opportunity for those travelling domestically to enjoy the lounge before borders to Australia open back up.
"It's a great opportunity for those who haven't travelled in a while to treat themselves to a lounge experience before heading off on their summer holiday."