The first passengers from New Zealand have arrived in Australia under new “travel bubble” arrangements between the two countries.
None of the passengers on the flight from Auckland to Sydney will be required to quarantine in Australia.
However they will have to pay for their own quarantine in a hotel when they return to New Zealand.
At the moment, the bubble is one-sided, with Australians not allowed to enter New Zealand.
Australia and New Zealand are among the first countries in the Asia-Pacific region to loosen restrictions on international travel since Covid-19 travel bans came into effect earlier this year.
Singapore and Hong Kong announced on Thursday that they had agreed to quarantine-free travel between the two cities. They did not say when travel would begin.
Limited travel and expensive holidays
The bubble currently applies only to the state of New South Wales and the Northern Territory, but Australian officials said they hoped to expand to other states soon.
Under the deal, New Zealanders can travel quarantine-free to Australia if they have not been to a Covid-19 hotspot for 14 days.
But a holiday in Australia could be expensive. Upon their return, New Zealand passengers will have to quarantine at a cost of NZ$3,100 ($2,045; £1,586) for the first person and more for additional family members.
About 90% of those travelling with Air New Zealand on Friday were booked one-way, the airline said.
Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar all had flights scheduled to arrive in Sydney on Friday.
Upon arrival, passengers from New Zealand are kept separate from other passengers, who will be required to spend two weeks in quarantine.
Since March, Australia’s borders have been closed to everyone except returning Australian citizens and residents and those with special permission.
All arrivals are now required to quarantine at their own expense.
There is a backlog of around 29,000 Australians trying to get into the country.
New Zealand has recorded 1,880 cases and 25 deaths from Covid-19, while Australia has seen over 27,000 infections and 904 deaths.
The majority of Australia’s cases have been in the state of Victoria, which enacted tough lockdowns to bring the numbers under control.
Green shoots for travel industry
The limited resumption of international travel between Australia and New Zealand could be an early indication of a slight recovery for the travel industry in the Asia-Pacific region.
Singapore and Hong Kong’s in-principle deal would require travellers between the cities to test negative for Covid-19 with a mutually-agreed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the pandemic led to a 72% drop in international tourists in the first half of the year.
However, there has been a rebound in domestic tourism in some markets, such as China.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 290 airlines, expects traffic to be 66% below the level it was in 2019.
The IATA estimates that it will be at least 2024 before air traffic reaches pre-pandemic levels.