The first repatriation flight since the Covid-19 lockdown has departed for Tonga, carrying 150 passengers.
Air New Zealand's flight NZ970 departed Auckland for Fua'amotu International Airport a little later than scheduled on Tuesday morning.
Due to arrive in Tonga at approximately 1.30pm local time, those onboard will be the first Tongan citizens to arrive from New Zealand since border restrictions were put in place.
All passengers have been tested for Covid-19 prior to departure, requiring a negative result four days before travel.
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However, on arrival in Tonga passengers will be subject to 14 days mandatory quarantine, in Tongan government isolation facilities.
"There are a large number of Tongan passport holders who have been in New Zealand for an extended period of time due to COVID-19 related border restrictions. Air New Zealand is pleased to be working closely with the Tongan government to help facilitate those wanting to return home," said the airline's senior manager for the Pacific Islands.
This is only the second repatriation flight to the country, with 150 seats reported by Tongan news site Matangi. Half of these are expected to be seasonal workers who have been trapped in New Zealand since restrictions began four months ago.
There are a reported 7000 Tongans stranded overseas by pandemic border restrictions.
Tongan citizens have been banned from entering the Fua'amotu Airport since the first repatriation flight from Fiji arrived in July.
The next flight from New Zealand is yet to be announced, though Air New Zealand has said it is working with Tonga to arrange future transport to the islands.
Tongan citizens wishing to travel to Tonga can register for information on future repatriation services at citizensregistration.gov.to/wp