The Cook Islands travel bubble has had a wobbly few days with extreme weather aborting landings in Rarotonga and passengers ejected from flights following the Wellington Covid scare.
Now the Cook Islands Ministry of Health has apologised, after it was revealed that some passengers may have been "off-loaded in error".
Over the weekend, high winds caused Air New Zealand flight NZ942 to abort a landing, forcing it to return to Auckland.
The incident on Saturday New Zealand time saw the Boeing 787 come within metres of the runway at Rarotonga International Airport before being forced to go around.
One passenger has reportedly described the turbulence and aborted landing as "very scary".
"The winds were coming straight across the runway so it had to turn back," Airport Authority chief executive Joe Ngamata told Cook Island News.
Passengers onboard say they had been rebooked onto flights today, after a lost weekend in the Cook Islands.
Previous flights also affected by the extreme gusts and wild weather with 30 knots gusts and rain. The islands saw half a month's rain in a day the previous week, as the wild weather continued to challenge holidaymakers.
The airline confirmed that the flight was redirected on Saturday (Friday Cook Islands time) and "customers were accommodated on alternative services on Sunday and Monday."
There was also some non-weather related disruption to travel with passengers removed from flights to Rarotonga over recent travel history.
Several travellers who had been in Wellington were refused flights in Auckland over Coronavirus concerns.
"Continuing with the precautionary approach the Cook Islands Government has taken since this pandemic began, a number of passengers were off-loaded from the flight to Rarotonga that arrived Wednesday 23rd June [Cook Islands time]" Secretary of Health Bob Williams on Friday.
WIlliams said he had taken the decision to stop the travel plans after Wellington airport had been listed as a 'location of interest' following a positive Covid test result from an Australian tourist, triggering the city's Level 2 Alert status.
Air New Zealand confirmed they had been contacted by the Cook Islands Government on Thursday prior to departure of NZ940, to inform that certain passengers on the flight manifest would not be granted entry.
It is understood these passengers were already in Auckland for their connection to Rarotonga, when they were refused travel.
"Customers who were not able to travel on Thursday were rebooked to travel back to Wellington free of charge," said the airline, which said it would rebook onward travel once they had been cleared by the Cook Islands.
The health minister said he was unapologetic for the decision to stop travellers who had been though areas of interest from entering the Cook Islands. However, Williams was forced to back pedal when it was revealed that some passengers were incorrectly identified as a potential risk and denied travel.
"I do apologise to the passengers who were off-loaded in error and for the stress and uncertainty it caused all off-loaded passengers," he said.
Tourists and Cook Island residents already in Rarotonga were subjected to emergency tests, after the report historic 19th June case came to light.
Visitors were forced to isolate while and there were reports of visitors being called "in the middle of the night" for test swabs.
"These tourists have mostly been 100 per cent supportive of our efforts and for this I am extremely grateful," said Williams.
The Cook Islands warn that this is unlikely to be the last time that the travel bubble is disrupted, and urges travellers to factor in potential disruption into their plans.
There were 124 tests conducted locally on Friday, all with negative results.
Air New Zealand advises passengers to complete a CookSafe online travel declaration at least 24 hours before departure, and provide contact details to the Cook Islands Ministry
We recommend customers complete the CookSafe Online Declaration form 24 hours before departure and provide your contact and travel details to the Cook Islands Ministry of Health Te Marae Ora, to avoid last minute disruption.
"For travellers who have been in Wellington, there will be additional screening upon arrival into Rarotonga," which may include a Covid-19 test on arrival and need to isolate in Rarotonga until the results are established.
Breezy but busy: Herald Travel editor reports from Rarotonga
Herald Travel editor Stephanie Holmes reported from a windswept Rarotonga this weekend saying that, in spite of some gusty weather, beaches were busy.
Holmes departed on Sunday's completely full flight - along with some passengers who had been rebooked after being unable to land the day before.
Crossing the international date line meant they arrived in time to enjoy Saturday night on Rarotonga, which was pleasantly busy.
On the island, Holmes says, the vibe is largely positive.
"Many resorts are at 50-80 per cent capacity, with groups of Kiwis enjoying a getaway from New Zealand. Cafes around Muri Beach were especially popular, and The Mooring Fish Cafe was packed on Sunday lunchtime."
Holmes says the weather is still windy but people are not letting it ruin their holidays.
"Tour operators like Koka Lagoon Cruises were out on the water today and there are lots of people snorkelling, kayaking and kitesurfing, so it seems like business as usual."
The remainder of passengers disrupted by the weather were due to arrive today.
Air New Zealand says that customers who have travelled through Wellington or any areas of concern related to the Covid Alert can cancel their travel plans for flight credit via their website: airnz.click/HoldInCredit