Life has finally returned to international airport terminals in Australia more than a year after borders were slammed shut to halt the spread of Covid-19.

As the clock struck midnight on Sunday night, travellers from Australia were once again freely able to cross the Tasman into New Zealand in quarantine-free travel.

Travellers, many of whom were visiting family, were pictured at Sydney Airport in the early hours of Monday as they took advantage of the landmark easing of restrictions which Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed as “an important step in our road out”.

Travellers queue up at Sydney Airport early Monday morning. Source: Nine

Travellers queue up at Sydney Airport early Monday morning. Source: Nine

“Today’s milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe,” Mr Morrison said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed those flying into the nation, calling it “truly exciting”.

Thousands of travellers are due to fly on the first day. 

Several travellers revealed their relief at scoring a seat, with one passenger saying the separation from family had been “very hard”.

“It’s definitely been a long journey that’s finally coming to an end,” another told Channel Nine’s Today show.

Australian residents have not been able to leave the nation without quarantine for more than a year. Source: Nine

Australian residents have not been able to leave the nation without quarantine for more than a year. Source: Nine

Lauren Young and her young daughter Alice were heading to meet family, including some for the first time.

“It’s amazing. Yeah, it’s been a long time,” Ms Young told the ABC at the airport.

“So really looking forward to it. Meeting our 10-month-old new niece as well will be great.”

The first departure for passengers, the 6.15am JQ201 flight heading to Auckland, was delayed by 25 minutes. 

Pacific nations focus of next bubble

In a joint statement from both prime ministers, they revealed further travel bubbles were being explored, with Pacific nations next on the agenda.

They said such a focus demonstrated their “commitment to supporting [the Pacific’s] recovery”.

All people residing in Australia or New Zealand, including foreign nationals, can use quarantine-free travel, as long as they meet the health, immigration and other standard border clearance requirements in each country.

The easing of the border restriction reciprocates the arrangement already in place for Kiwi arrivals, who have been able to visit Australia without undertaking quarantine for up to six months in some states.

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