New Zealand's first direct flight to Hobart in over two decades has departed Auckland airport as part of expanded Transtasman services.
Air NZ CEO Greg Foran and Tourism Tasmania CEO John Fitzgerald were in attendance at Auckland Airport's Koru Lounge ahead of the inaugural direct flight to Hobart.
Fitzgerald made the most of the new Transtasman Bubble and flew over to Auckland earlier this week so he could join the inaugural flight returning to Hobart.
Fitzgerald says there are commonalities between NZ and Tasmania, and Kiwis will find a "lovely familiarity" when they get there.
A group of media and trade are joining representatives from Air NZ on the first flight, which will also see a group of Kiwi holiday makers jetting across the Tasman. There's a celebratory atmosphere for this new route, born in the midst of a pandemic.
Foran is unable to join the group as tomorrow he is flying to Sydney to visit family he hasn't seen for some time.
Fitzgerald noted that, like New Zealand as an island nation, Tasmania is an island state and "islanders are more resilient and inventive... we do things well". He said Kiwis can look forward to destination highlights like big nature, tramping, mountain biking and leading food and beverage.
The gathered group toasted the new flight with glasses of Arras sparkling wine, a multi-awarded Tasmanian winery.
Mark Mayerholfer, senior enablement manager for Air New Zealand, formerly senior cabin crew manager - and former all black - was also in attendance. Mayerholfer lead a waiata with the Maori Modern Quartet to farewell travellers on NZ197 to Hobart.
A ceremony was planned on arrival in Hobart International airport, however the welcome party was kept on their toes. A tail wind pushed the flight well ahead of its scheduled arrival of 11am AEST.
Catering for the occasion, Air New Zealand has made a lot of the 24,000 bottles of Champagne or 'transtasman bubbles' for this week's flights.
The new Hobart route has not missed out. As well as Tasmanian sparkling wine, passengers were treated to a celebration cake during the flight to mark this momentous week for Air NZ, New Zealand and Australia.
Arriving in Hobart Airport Kiwi visitors were greeted by a 'Welcome to country' ceremony and Tourism Tasmania representatives.
Peter Gutwein, premier of Tasmania, welcomed the Air NZ flight and said this marked "the beginning of big things". He called it a historic day for our two islands.
Prior to Covid, about 17,000 Kiwis visited Tasmania every year - he expects that to grow now with the establishment of the direct flight.
Carrie Hurihanganui Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer says the airline is delighted to have another gateway to being Kiwis to Australia, and vice versa.
Fitzgerald says demand from Kiwi travellers is looking strong for the months ahead
Fitzgerald says it's been a six year process to get this route established and launched. "it's a bit emotional to be honest, to finally bring this plane into the state".
Herald Travel Editor Stephanie Holmes reports a smooth arrival process, after filling in Australia and Tasmanian Travel Declarations online in the days before departure.
"We were welcomed warmly by border security staff and a brief temperature check via computer screen scanning technology and then we were through"