Seven-year-old Alice Hawkins hadn’t seen her mum for 15 months.
Bee Dawson had been apart from her son James since last February.
John and Elizabeth Anderson were missing their daughter since two Christmases ago.
And Olivia Mouad was waiting with her two children, waiting to re-introduce them to their aunt Rebecca.
“She’s hasn’t met her niece since she was six weeks old and she’s almost 18 months. It’s been a while,” Ms Mouad told AAP.
“She’s missed lots of birthdays and special times. I just can’t wait to have some big family time.”
On Monday, they all waited at Wellington Airport for the first arrivals from Sydney on the first day of the trans-Tasman bubble.
Maori singing filled the anxious air as they got a first glimpse of their loved ones through a specially arranged camera through to the other side of the terminal.
And one by one, as friends and relatives dribbled through the arrivals door, each was met with a mighty embrace.
“It’s been an emotional time,” Ms Dawson said through tears.
“It’s not like the olden days when you couldn’t see people far away. You just expect to be able to see people all the time.”
The scene will be repeated up and down the country on Monday and for weeks to come after New Zealand finally lifted quarantine requirements from Australian travellers.
The first flight touched down at Auckland Airport at lunchtime on Monday – a Jetstar service from Sydneydelayed by just over an hour.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was across town chairing a Cabinet meeting as the first passengers came through.
“I imagine a scene from Love Actually is how it might have looked,” she said.
“It is truly exciting to start quarantine-free travel with Australia.
“Be it returning family, friends or holiday makers, New Zealand says, ‘welcome and enjoy yourself’.
“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’s move comes six months after Australia began to open up to Kiwi travellers, something started by NSW and the Northern Territory and which now extends to all states and mainland territories.
In a joint statement, Ms Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Pacific would come next.
“Australia and New Zealand are also exploring opportunities to extend quarantine-free travel to other countries in the Pacific, when it is safe to do so, reflecting our close ties to the Pacific and our commitment to supporting their recovery,” it read.
New Zealand has committed to opening up to Cook Islands next month, with Niue after that.
It has not begun formal talks with other countries, though Fiji is keen.