More than 100 New Zealand pilots will return to the cockpit when the trans-Tasman travel bubble opens.
They will be working for Qantas subsidiaries Jetconnect and Jetstar, while Air New Zealand is bringing back some furloughed cabin crew.
New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association president Captain Andrew Ridling said the pilots were returning to the sector after a year on leave without pay.
"A lot of them were doing other jobs because they've been on leave without pay. We've had guys driving tractors and trucks right through to working in insurance and offices and doing all sorts of jobs to get themselves through the last 12 months," he said.
"It's been a really tough time for our industry and our colleagues."
Quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand, with the exception of Western Australia, starts from 19 April.
Ridling said there was still a long way to go before the industry recovered.
He said the association was concerned New Zealand-trained pilots who had been laid off when borders closed would look overseas to return to flying.
"It's a very big concern. We lost a lot of our training organisations and staff and we could be left exposed if we don't keep people involved in the industry, especially as the rest of the world opens up."
"If we do it correct across the Tasman then we will be able to cookie-cut that and make that the model for going to other destinations. We could become a leadership model around this part of the world."
Ridling spoke to RNZ from Los Angeles, where he is on layover between flying cargo.
"It's very sad to see the seats empty; it's surreal really."
He said some planes used for short haul trans-Tasman flights had been parked permanently at airports in both countries.
"The spare runways have been like parking lots for these aircraft. They'll need a little bit of maintenance, they'll need to go through their checks but there is a system to bring them back into service."