When Auckland woman Angela found out her young sister Marie was moving to Tonga for three years, she knew that she would need some help keeping a long running prank alive.

She knew, somehow, she would have to get the 'Bearded Man' involved.

The Bearded Man in question is a small fluffy toy about the size of a hen's egg. He had started as a joke present for their father's 40th birthday but had been firmly adopted by the sisters as the subject of their favourite prank. Particularly because he can fit into unexpected places.

For the past 30 years the sisters had an ongoing joke where they took it in turns hiding the toy to surprise the other. Even when Angela's sister moved to Whangarei they kept the joke going.

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The Bearded Man had been couriered around the country, hidden in cars and fridges – all to keep the game going.

However, with Marie moving with her husband and kids to Tonga, Angela knew that she would have to get help to keep the three-decade long game of 'Bearded Man' going.

Angela contacted Virgin Australia, the airline which would be carrying Marie to her new life in Tonga.

She messaged the airline to see if they would be up to taking part in the "ultimate finale" to the 30-year game and help end it on a high.

She asked if there was any way the airline could place the Bearded Man on Marie's as a surprise.

"This is probably a massive ask but would be a fantastic end to our game," she wrote.

Reunited: Marie is presented with the Bearded Man toy on her plane to Tonga. Photo / Supplied
Reunited: Marie is presented with the Bearded Man toy on her plane to Tonga. Photo / Supplied

The family tradition took a bit of explaining but fortunately the airline saw the funny side, and agreed to play along.

Leaving the toy in the hands of the crew at Auckland international airport they took the plane to Tonga.

Of course they printed a boarding pass for MAN / BEARDED MR on the flight to Alofa. Not that Marie was aware of who was on the plane with her and the kids.

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The only warning she had was mid-flight, when Marie was summoned to the front of the plane by an announcement.

To her surprise she was presented with the 30-year old fluffy toy.

Marie described the surprise reunion with the Bearded Man as "like being in a dream".
She couldn't believe her sister had gotten away with it, and that the airline had gone along with the joke.

Virgin Australia were only happy to have been a part of keeping the joke running, and also presented Angela with two return tickets to visit her sister (and the Bearded Man) in Tonga.

Marie, however, will have a very hard time topping this surprise.