The early-morning alarms were always going to be worth it. For the families gathering at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 as dawn broke on Monday, it was the first time seeing their loved ones in as many as three years.
As of 4am on Monday morning, fully-vaccinated arrivals from the United States and the 27 EU countries were no longer required to quarantine, opening the door to leisure travel and long-awaited reunions.
Despite the relaxation of quarantine requirements, uncertainty continues around international travel, with Boris Johnson being warned not to create a new category in the traffic light system.
Watch: US/EU vaccinated arrivals can enter England
The rumoured amber watchlist would apply to countries at risk of being moved into the red category - which requires hotel quarantine for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 for an adult - potentially delaying family reunions further.
Though, you could not put a price on the scenes at the UK's biggest airport on Monday morning.
Karen Tyler, 57, last saw Jonathan, 27, in autumn 2019 when he was back in the UK on a brief visit from Houston.
“He's here to see family and his grandma who's not so well, so hopefully he'll get to see her and spend time with her,” she said.
“Aunties, cousins... everybody he's not been able to see in so long. I just can't wait.”
Mrs Tyler admitted that she did not allow herself to get excited until she woke up on Monday morning.
“I didn’t know if they were going to make it, I didn’t know if they were going to put more restrictions on. I just can’t believe it’s happening after so long… we had to cancel twice last year. FaceTime just isn’t the same.”
The tears began to flow shortly after 8am when Jonathan finally emerged with his luggage more than half an hour after his flight landed, running into his mother’s arms as soon as he saw her.
Mrs Tyler was not the only mother finally able to see her expat son in person.
Watch: Pinging causes 'chaos' at border control
'My stomach's been going mad'
Deborah Greaves, 60, an office manager, was reunited with her son Joshua, 30 - who lives in Sweden with his American wife - for the first time in more than a year.
“I was supposed to go out at the very beginning of it all and I had to cancel,” she said.
“He's got to work and study so we'll work around that. But we'll spend lots of time together as a family - his brother's very excited to see him.
“I caught him for a day when he came over last summer but he's here for a month now. My stomach's been going mad… I don’t know whether to be sick or to cry.”
Others had waited even longer. Ray and Sharon Wilson, both 57, were there with their son Mitchell, 27, and his partner Shaughna, 25, to greet their son Rhys and three-year-old granddaughter Olivia, who live in New Orleans, for the first time in 21 months.
“It’s a long time in someone’s life especially with kids when they’re at that formative stage. My wife and I normally go out there three times a year, so we’ve never actually been apart from them for this long,” Mr Wilson said.
“It’s just not been the same calling them on Zoom,” his wife added. “And children get bored of you on there! Sometimes they’ll chat for two hours but then other times we’ve rang they’ll leave the phone on and just walk off. We’re really going to treasure these moments.”
Sisters Julie, Dawn and Jackie Jones, aged 53, 59 and 57 respectively, were together again for the first time in two years as Dawn flew in from Chicago for a month-long holiday.
"We haven't seen each other since our father died which was very sad," Julie said. "We're finally going to scatter his ashes at the Liverpool Docks because he was a sailor. We're going to party like there's no September."
"I'm here for a month and it's my birthday, it's Jackie's birthday so we're going to enjoy lots of time together with the family," Dawn added.
The sisters plan to head for Anfield watch their first Liverpool game together at the start of next month now that capacity crowds have returned to sporting and live events.
Steven and Claire Frohlich, 55 and 58, were waiting for their daughter Louise, 20, who had had been out in New Orleans for two months on an education visa.
'Beer for breakfast'
“Nobody else was allowed to go and it's pure luck that she was on this flight and doesn't have to isolate,” Mr Frohlich said. “A month ago we didn't know what was going to happen, so it's turned out very, very well. Louise wants a beer for breakfast because she's been underage while in the States.”
Mrs Frohlich added: “We have a grandson in Dubai who is only a month old and we can't get out there and they can't get here. It's not a nice situation but at least Louise is back to us now. My biggest fear was she wouldn't be able to and it's just turned out so well.”
For John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, the emotional scenes on show were “what international travel is all about.”
“This will help reconnect families as well as reconnecting businesses with their customers,” he said. “The benefit of the UK’s vaccine rates are that we can open up and get our lives back to normal again.”
Watch: How will allowing fully vaccinated US and EU travellers into the UK work?