First flight touches down as restrictions ease
The first flight from the nation's capital since Queensland reopened its border to Canberra has touched down at Coolangatta - and there were celebrations with a "capital" C.
COVID-quietened Gold Coast Airport came alive with joyful scenes as families and partners who had been separated for weeks and even months reunited with hugs and tears.
The Virgin flight was the first to Coolangatta since Queensland shut its border to NSW and the ACT on August 8, after the southern zones were declared COVID hot spots by the State Government.
The border reopened to Canberra residents on Friday, and both Virgin and Qantas have launched new services to entice school holiday travellers.
Among those on Friday's flight was Canberra grandfather Colin Skelton, whose wife Janice has been stuck in Queensland for three months.
Mrs Skelton flew to the Gold Coast in June to help her son David set up a new business and could not return when the border shut.
"I was worried that if I returned to Canberra earlier, I wouldn't be able to get back up here to help David and see my other two sons who also live on the Coast," she said.
After being processed by border police with other incoming passengers, Mr Skelton greeted his wife, son and five-year-old grandson Cody with big hugs.
"Absolutely terrific mate," he said when asked what it was like to be reunited with his family.
"I'm so happy to be here. We've done a lot of facetiming."
Cody, who will celebrate his sixth birthday on Monday, said he planned to give his granddad "about a million" cuddles.
Mr Skelton, an optometrist, said he supported the border closure despite being separated from his family in largely COVID-free Canberra.
"Safety first - I've got no problem with the borders being closed for as long as you need to," he said.
Gold Coast Airport chief Marion Charlton said while the Canberra flights and new Cairns services were a positive step towards recovery, passenger numbers were down almost 98 per cent - or 517,837 fewer passengers - last month.
"A road map for reopening Queensland to the rest of the country is needed, and should have clear triggers and timelines to give people confidence that the borders will stay open so they can make future travel plans," she said.
Originally published as First flight touches down as restrictions ease