Air New Zealand has now been given approval by Cook Islands Immigration to start selling tickets for the flight, which can only be booked through Air New Zealand’s office in Rarotonga.
Following that, any other available seats will then be opened to non-registered people closer to the departure date.
Air New Zealand’s Marisa Newman said the airline couldn't sell tickets until Immigration allowed them to – and that happened on Monday night.
“Our hands were tied until we got section 9A approval from Immigration,” Newman said.
Under Section 9A of the Entry, Residence and Departures Act 1971-72, entry can be refused into the Cook Islands if travellers are not New Zealand passport holders, New Zealand Permanent Resident holders, Australia Citizens and Permanent Residents who normally live in New Zealand, Cook Islanders, Permanent Residents of the Cook Islands, Cook Islands Work permit holders
or Cook Islands Residents permit holders.
Entry will also be permitted for any immediate family (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children).
Newman said the plan was to use a larger plane on June 19 – a Boeing 787 – to bring over anyone who is on Te Marae Ora’s repatriation list and, after that, anyone else who meets the rest of the Immigration directive.
"We're taking bookings from people on Te Marae Ora's list. Then the flight will open more generally from June 15, to all Cook Islands and work permit holders who have been in New Zealand for 30 days."
The hope is to be able to put on more flights in the near future.
"As we see the tourism demand, we will increase the number of flights we bring in each week," Newman said.
Erin Mitchell, who has been in Hamilton, New Zealand, with her daughters Georgie, Ava and Alexis since March, received approval to travel via email from Immigration on Monday.
They are so excited to be able to return back to our home in Rarotonga after almost four months away for Erin and three months for the girls.
Most of all they are looking forward to seeing their “hubby/dad Xavier, friends and their animals”.
“The kids are really excited about returning to school, seeing their school mates and resuming learning,” she said.
“Oh and taking a dip in the lagoon and eating at our favourite local spots!”