After a 396-day wait Jenny Young was finally able to make her way to Whanganui.
The Whanganui-born and raised woman was masked up at Coolangatta Airport yesterday beginning a long-awaited trip home to visit a friend.
She was one of hundreds who freely crossed the Tasman on what was the first day of quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia since the Covid-19 pandemic closed borders.
Born and raised in Whanganui, Young now lives in Australia and was last in the city three years ago when she helped her friend relocate from Auckland.
"We actually had an overseas trip together booked for last year which we had to cancel. That was tough," Young said.
She still wanted to be back as soon as the bubble opened and was glued to the announcement this time two weeks ago.
"The moment the bubble was announced I booked my flights. I was jumping for joy."
Young said she wasn't hugely concerned about a potential outbreak of Covid-19 leaving her stranded.
"I've had a few people who tell me I'm quite stupid, but I'm not really worried. I have family in New Zealand, so I won't be forced to pay for accommodation if it flares up and I have to stay," she said.
"I haven't booked a return flight, so I'll probably be there for around a month, I'm looking forward to it."
Like many others heading to Whanganui, Young had booked a flight on Air Chathams, the sole airline servicing the Auckland-Whanganui route.
Speaking to the Chronicle yesterday, Air Chathams General Manager Duane Emeny said the bubble was a lifeline for the business that has been struggling since the borders closed in March last year.
"Many airlines have been quite vocal on the fact our business can't recover until we had international travel. Realistically for us, the Tasman represented 80 per cent of what we were doing anyway.
"It's huge. It can't be understated how important it is. Really we've just been limping along I suppose. It's critical to our recovery."
Emeny said that the next few days were looking busy, with the first burst of Australian visitors coming in and Kiwi tourists going out, mixed with the beginning of the school holidays increasing demand anyway.
"The next few days is interesting because we're also in that school holiday time so you get that fluctuation anyway, but it's been good. It's certainly been stronger than what we've been experiencing over the last few months."
In preparation for the bubble, most Air Chathams staff have received either their first or both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. That includes Emeny, who pilots the odd flight himself.
"The majority of our team have been able to go and get their vaccines now, and quite a few are on to their second dose," he said.
"But like anything, the business can't make it mandatory. We can only put the right amount of appropriate documentation in front of people, but it's their choice."