Auckland International Airport is preparing for transtasman traffic to increase 10 fold on Monday, with the arrival of quarantine-free flights from Australia.
The airport will welcome 400 quarantine-free flights a week, compared to just 36 in the first week of April.
This represents new routes for carriers Air New Zealand, Jetstar and Qantas. There will be new Queensland links to Auckland, from Cairns and the Gold Coast. On April 22, Air New Zealand will return with a direct link to Hobart, the first in more than two decades.
Auckland Airport CEO Adrian Littlewood says it is a hugely emotional day, representing a huge operation and the biggest upheaval to arrivals since September 11, 2001.
"Just like what happened after 9/11, managing Covid-19 has meant new processes in place," said Littlewood.
From this morning all arrivals will be split into two channels, with a separate path for passengers from quarantine-free countries.
"Our terminal separation came into effect today, with all arriving passengers needing to go into managed isolation now being processed in Zone B, our fully separated mini arrivals processing area. This allows us a full three days for the final preparations along the safe arrivals path," he said.
Zone A will have to wait until 11.20am Monday for its first passengers and the arrival of JQ201 from Sydney.
Airlines with previous transtasman connections – Virgin Australia, LATAM and China Airlines - are yet to announce a return.
The airport's food and retail outlets have also been decimated. Prior to 2020, there were more than 100 businesses in the international terminal. This has fallen to just 11 tenancies.
The return of passengers from across the ditch will lead to a return of some normalcy, with more shops "scheduled to re-open across the week".
In 2019, Australian visitors represented 864,000 inbound seats to New Zealand. It has historically been the country's biggest inbound visitor market.
What to know before heading to the Airport
I want to go welcome my friends at arrivals. Am I allowed in the airport?
Friends and family are welcome at the airport – our terminals are open to everyone
I'm off to Aussie, what do I need to do?
Make sure you fill out your Travel Declaration for Australia, well in advance. The Australian government needs 72 hours' notice before departure.
Bring a face covering. Masks must be worn on all international flights, and are mandatory in Australian airports.
Oh, and remember your passport. At the risk of sounding patronising: it is possibly not something you've picked up for a while, so check it is still in date and valid for the length of travel.
Who can travel to Australia?
Anyone who has been in New Zealand for 14-days can fly to Australia quarantine-free and without producing a negative PCR test.
This includes Australians, New Zealanders and anyone who normally lives in New Zealand or Australia.
"Normal immigration rules will apply for anyone wishing to travel between New Zealand and Australia," says a Spokesperson for New Zealand Immigration. Visa holders allowing multiple entries are currently able to return to New Zealand on 'green flights' from Australia.
However, flyers should "beware" that travel restrictions can change. Get the latest information from the COVID-19 website regarding travel alert levels.
"Visa holders planning to travel to Australia should check the conditions of their visa before travelling."
Do I need a Covid test before flying to Australia?
No. Passengers on quarantine-free flights from New Zealand can travel without testing for Covid.
However, things can change.
Make sure you're ready for international travel – read the COVID-19 website for the latest information on quarantine-free travel and re-check what you can and can't take through Aviation Security screening.
I'm looking for a last minute pressie, is there still duty free?
Duty free is available at both arrivals and departures but retail and food and beverage options may be limited on day one, and will grow over the next few weeks.
How's best to get to get to the airport?
Take care and follow signs and directions as you drive through the precinct roadworks
Car parks, including valet parking and Park & Ride, the inter-terminal bus, SkyBus, taxis, ride-share, and public transport will all be operating at the international terminal
Anything drivers should know?
Puhinui Road and improvements to State Highway 20B should make access easier by road. However, new speed limits and road layouts could easily catch out anyone who hasn't been to the airport in some time. There are still some roading works in progress.
Research your route and arrive in plenty of time.