After nearly 600 days of closed borders, Australia has welcomed its first quarantine and travel bubble-free international flights on Monday morning.
A flight from Singapore arrived in Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport before 5:30 a.m. with a Qantas flight from Los Angeles, the United States, following at 6 a.m.
The initial flights entering Australia are limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their families who have been stranded overseas due to the government’s strict biosecurity border policy.
Hundreds of travellers reunited with family and friends who greeted them at the airport.
Many passengers were greeted with “welcome home” signs and offered Tim Tams, an iconic Australian chocolate biscuit, and native Australian flowers when they exited customs.
“I am ecstatic,” an Australian passenger from Los Angeles told Nine News. “This is like, the third flight that I have booked. I have been wanting to come home for a while now.”
Another woman said she was coming home to see her father, who was in the hospital.
“I haven’t been able to see him for two years, and they wouldn’t let me come in any earlier than today, so I got the first flight back,” she told AAP.
New South Wales (NSW) Premier Dominic Perrottet said it was a wonderful day for the NSW.
“It is a great day for our state,” Perrottet told the Nine Network.
Meanwhile, fully vaccinated Australians can now also leave the country for the United States, the United Kingdom, and Thailand from Monday with the first Qantas International flight QF1 will depart from Sydney to London at 6.30 p.m.
Further, within the state of NSW, the domestic travel ban between Greater Sydney and regional areas has lifted on Monday, as has the intrastate borders between NSW, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory, which will also open for those who are fully vaccinated.
“Today is a day many people have been waiting for,” Perrottet said in a statement.
“Families and friends across NSW can now get together as well look forward to welcoming back home Australians who have been overseas trying to get home.”
Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said it was time for Sydney to regain its title as the gateway to the nation with Australians coming home in time for Christmas.
“NSW is again open for business. People can come together in a safe way whether it be returning home from overseas or getting together for an end-of-year gathering at your favourite venue,” he said.