It was the first time that Ava, Lyla and Beau had flown on an aeroplane. Their mum and dad, Jay and Abbie Marlin, were bound for a close friend's destination wedding come September next year, and a weekend away to the Gold Coast seemed like a perfect practice run.
The holiday season is approaching, and the kids would love a theme park - it would turn out to be a great holiday.
"They were a little bit scared on the flight up," Mr Marlin said after arriving home again on Wednesday afternoon, "But they got over it pretty quickly and then coming back, they were good."
The Central Coast family had flown with Jetstar, the same airline that will take them to the Cook Islands next year, but little did they know that their practice trip with the kids would turn into a milestone voyage.
When they touched down in Newcastle on Wednesday afternoon, they were met with a fanfare from the airline as the 12 millionth passengers to fly into Newcastle onboard the orange tail.
"I'm really surprised," Mr Marlin said, "I'm never lucky to get something like this. It's been great - we had a good trip up with the kids. Now, it's back to reality."
The airline gifted the family with a $1000 flight voucher, which will go towards their trip in the new year.
"12 million customers into Newcastle is a huge milestone for us and one that wouldn't have been possible without the support of the people of Newcastle," the airline's customer executive manager, Jenn Armor, said.
"Our appreciation also goes to Newcastle Airport for its ongoing support of Jetstar."
It has been almost 20 years since the first Jetstar flight took off from Newcastle Airport, bound for Melbourne in 2004.
Since then, the recognisable orange and silver planes have been flying as many as half a million customers from the region's airport each year, representing roughly a third of the local airport's annual movements.
They're big numbers, but they only get bigger as the airline flew its 12 million customer - local man Jay Marlin and his family - from the Gold Coast on Wednesday afternoon.
The milestone follows a rough couple of years for the flying industry, as bushfires preceded the pandemic and then a cost of living crisis made flights an unaffordable luxury for many travellers, but Airport CEO Peter Cock said there are definite signs of recovery.
"It's exciting," he said of the airline's milestone, "Every point that we have that shows us we're coming back to our old selves is a real shot in the arm; we're here to facilitate people in and out of the region, that's what people come here to do, so every milestone like this is really great."
Mr Cock said the compounding pressures on the industry had meant the recovery was going slightly slower than expected, but the local Airport was gearing up for a bumper holiday season and looking to the new year.
"I think 2024 will be a really positive year for us," Mr Cock said, hinting at a few imminent announcements in the new year, but stopping short of confirming the news on the horizon.
"We are in active discussions with a number of airlines at the moment," he said, "I'm very sure we'll have a couple of announcements in 2024 with the way the conversations are going."
In the meantime, the airport has plans to host a series of live entertainments for customers flying to and from the region over the holidays.
"We're very optimistic (about the holiday season this year), and the airlines are as well," Mr Cock said. "They've put in 10 per cent extra seats in December, so that's their vote of confidence that there's going to be the bookings and the capacity.
"We have more destinations than we did last year - we have the Sunshine Coast and Whitsundays now with Bonza - we're really excited about that. And we're dusting off the Christmas decorations, making sure the bar is stocked and getting in some entertainments for the kids."
The Newcastle Airport services as many as 1.3 million passengers a year, Mr Cock said, and was looking forward to a bumper season in 2024.