Queenstown firm xtravel is chartering a Dreamliner to get Kiwis back from South America later this month, the first direct flight from the region for six months.
The Latam flight will also carry South Americans, stranded here since March, back home.
A partner of xtravel, Tori Keating, said the flight was the result of months of work with the airline and New Zealand authorities.
There had been up to 150 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) places allocated to the returnees, many of who were family groups.
"We've been really chuffed that the New Zealand Government has been so generous with MIQ. We've been working really closely with Mfat and the Ministry of Transport."
She said the 787-9 would fly between Santiago and Auckland, arriving on October 27.
Chartering an aircraft such as a Dreamliner could cost more than $250,000 each way.
Many of the Kiwis on board werefarming in countries including Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia.
Late last month Covid cases were running at more than 10,000 cases a day and while Brazil's case numbers were falling there were still more than 30,000 a day.
"They initially thought they would ride this out and get to the other side but right now we don't have another side. We've done well in New Zealand with Covid and alot of people for peace of mind want to come home," she said.
''People are saying New Zealand is safe and if I wanted to bring my kids up anywhere that's where I want to be.''
Those Kiwis in South America who wanted to come home now faced a 60-hour marathon via Brazil and either Dubai or Doha to Auckland. Seats were limited and fares expensive.
Adult fares on the outbound repatriation flight on October 28 from Auckland to Santiago for about 70 people cost $2200 and the inbound flights were $3059 an adult seat.
She said it wasn't a Government requirement for a negative test before coming home and she had reservations about pre-flight testing.
Some airlines and countries required negative tests 72 to 96 hours before travel but there was a risk of picking up the virus in that time, especially at airports and the tests weren't ''necessarily worth the paper they are written on.''
The Dreamliner had 289 seats available and would be half full at most, passengers would wear face masks and families would be in their own bubbles.
Passengers must have the legal right to enter New Zealand and it is up to the passenger to ensure they have the correct documentation to show at check-in. Once ticketed, all fares become fully non-refundable and non-transferable. xtravel is also not responsible for passengers being denied boarding for failing to have the correct visa or travel exemption to enter New Zealand.
From a Cessna to a Dreamliner
Keating said her firm was one of the top sellers for Latam in New Zealand because of the high number of South American workers in the Queenstown area.
When the pandemic struck and travel suddenly halted her firm found itself working on repatriation journeys, first dealing with the challenge of getting people out of Queenstown during level four lockdown to other New Zealand cities.
She made connections with stranded South American workers by volunteering at a council supported welfare organisation.
''We have such a high migrant population down here — those who wanted to leave couldn't. We were looking at flights for people to get all over the globe which were possible but not out of Queenstown.''
Like most other airlines operating to New Zealand, Latam quit flying scheduled passenger flights this year but maintained a once a week cargo service between Santiago and Auckland.
Keating said her firm raised the possibility of using a few seats on cargo flights for repatriation but authorities here said they would rather prefer a single dedicated flight.
"They've been so sympathetic and empathetic to the plight of Kiwis who have been stuck over there. They're not numbers they are people. It is really heartbreaking.''
Latam filed for bankruptcy protection in May and had worked hard to come up with the right deal, said Keating.
'' We've lobbied the airline trying to keep the prices as low as possible. It's a big risk we're taking because we're chartering the aircraft which makes it liable for a bucket load of money in an industry that is not doing so well at the moment.''
Her firm's first pandemic charter fight was a Milford Air Cessna to Auckland to connect to the last repatriation flight to New Caledonia.
''Our first plane was a 12-seater - now we've gone to a Dreamliner,'' she said.