A total of 48 passengers including five children were on flight NZ937 from Hanan International Alofi bound for Auckland yesterday afternoon.
The first quarantine free flight from Niue to New Zealand was delayed by some ‘engineering issues’ departing Niue at about 5.30pm and arriving into Auckland at 8.50pm. Passengers were given packages of masks and gloves at the departure lounge in Niue and expected to wear masks throughout the three and half hour flight.
Passengers included a young family leaving for the birth of their third child, several grandparents traveling to meet their families. Some who visited Niue before the borders closed and were unable to return until yesterday.
Like, this reporter, many of the passengers were traveling for medical purposes including two members of parliament, O’love Jacobsen and Richard Hipa (pictured at arrival gates)
Passengers were welcomed into the aircraft by the friendly masked Air NZ crew and that was about the only normal thing about this quarantine free flight. Passengers and the Air NZ crew all had to wear masks throughout the flight, only removed to have meals and drinks.
Arriving at Auckland airport, the passengers were ushered efficiently through the safe lane by smiling officials. At the customs counters, the masks were removed temporarily and passengers were sent off with the usual “Welcome back” after processing.
There was a quiet eerie feeling like we were the only people at the airport. The masks were uncomfortable for those of us who wear glasses but that was the only issue, nothing we couldn’t handle for a while longer until we exited the terminal.
At the luggage carousel, some of the passengers waited for the usual white Styrofoam bins full of Niue umu food for their families who have missed out on the treats for the past year, while the rest headed to the quarantine officials.
Once cleared by quarantine, the passengers walked out to the arrival area to an eerie silence, just as it was like walking through the terminal through the safe lane. At 9.27 pm my daughter and I walked out of the arrival gates. Everything was closed and the usual hustle and bustle of the terminal arrival and departure areas were strangely quiet.
A small group of fewer than 20 people waiting for their loved ones to walk through the arrival doors. There was no lingering to chat, just quick goodbyes and wishing each other well with medical appointments, and just like that, the much anticipated first-ever quarantine-free flight from Niue to Auckland ended without much fuss.