After months of waiting, families and friends finally had their emotional reunion when Australia’s first quarantine-free travelers landed in Christchurch.
Covid-19 border restrictions were eased at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, with the first flight to Christchurch Airport landing at 12:35 p.m. Wednesday.
Amanda Bear was there to greet her husband of 36 years, Christopher Pulley-Rock, with a sign and a teddy bear in hand.
“We’ll have to get to know each other again,” Bear said.
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After 11 months in different countries – the longest time they have ever spent apart – the couple have had a long-awaited emotional embrace.
“It’s been a challenge,” Pulley-Rock said.
“After four cancellations, you start to lose faith.”
Brenda Bickerstaff was counting down the days – 800 to be exact – since the last time she had hugged her son, Daniel Ginders, 26.
It was “surreal” to finally have him in your arms again, she said.
Tears flowed from the whole family as Ginders walked through the arrivals gate.
“It doesn’t feel real to be back here,” Ginders said.
The family went home to celebrate with a bottle of champagne.
Neave, 9, and Oli Mitchell, 11, had no idea when they woke up on Wednesday that they would be skipping school to pick up their grandparents from the airport after a year apart.
Oli said the bonus was missing at the school cross.
Both grandparents were relieved to be back and surprised to see that Oli had almost grown taller than them.
It was a bittersweet reunion for Rebecca Wilson who was supposed to meet her aunt and cousin, but due to a domestic flight cancellation in Australia and lack of time to get another PCR test, only her aunt was able to board. on board the flight to New Zealand.
Following Wednesday’s single afternoon arrival, Qantas’ schedule will change to a midnight arrival, adding to Air NZ which already flies to and from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Qantas also plans to increase services between Christchurch and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in the coming weeks.
“We see Tasman services all very full in fact almost all are full,” said Christchurch Airport spokeswoman Yvonne Densem.
“Our view is that the South Island attractions are still there and ready for visitors, so we look forward to saying ‘welcome cobber’ more often.”
From Thursday, Fiji Airways will operate up to two flights per week from Christchurch to Fiji and daily flights from Auckland.