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(CNN) — A two-way travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand opened Monday, allowing passengers to move quarantine-free between both countries for the first time in more than a year.
Australia had previously allowed New Zealand travelers to enter without quarantine, and New Zealand is now following suit.
"The bubble marks a significant step in both countries' reconnection with the world and it's one we should all take a moment to be very proud of," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news release
from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office.
Under the new rules, passengers won't be allowed to travel if they had a positive Covid-19 test in the previous 14 days or present flu-like symptoms. They must also have spent the 14 days before departure in either Australia or New Zealand.
"Today's milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe," Morrison said in the news release.
Hundreds of passengers crowded the international departure terminal at Australia's Melbourne Airport early Monday amid long check-in lines.
"This is really the first day in over a year that Australians get to dust off their passports and travel overseas," Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Lorie Argus said. Melbourne Airport said it will welcome 19 trans-Tasman flights on Monday, which is equal to approximately 4,000 seats, according to a news release.
Each week, around 140 services will operate between Melbourne and New Zealand, and the number will rise to 180 weekly flights by the end of May, the release added -- around 70% of pre-Covid levels.
Melbourne Airport now offers non-stop flights to four New Zealand destinations: Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Queenstown.
The long-awaited "trans-Tasman bubble" has had its ups and downs. The plan was first floated in October 2020, but then became a one-way bubble when another wave of cases struck Australia, meaning New Zealanders could travel to Australia mostly without issue but that Aussies could not go to New Zealand.
The bubble is expected to help drive economic recovery from the pandemic for both countries -- especially in the travel and tourism sectors, Morrison and Ardern said.
The trans-Tasman route is Australia's busiest international aviation market with more than 7 million passengers in the one year ending January 2020 before Covid-19 hit, Morrison's office said in an April 6 news release.
Air passengers from New Zealand usually account for around 18% of all arrivals in Australia annually, according to the release. In 2019, New Zealand travelers spent 1.6 billion Australian dollars ($1.2 billion) on travel and tourism in Australia.
Argus, from Melbourne Airport, said the bubble was "a great outcome."
"Just these flights alone creates another 50 jobs at the airport, let alone what it does for Melbourne and Victoria," she said.
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