Australians have been getting vaccinated as quickly as the doses become available and that rapid response is starting to reap rewards, with Qantas and Jetstar bringing forward their flight schedule to reflect the earlier reopening dates outlined by Victoria and NSW.
Some of the key domestic changes announced under the plan include bringing forward the reopening date for travel between Victoria and NSW from 1 December to 5 November and significantly increasing regional flying within NSW from 25 October.
In one setback, the airlines announced delaying the restart of domestic flying between Western Australia and Victoria/NSW by two months to 1 February 2022, based on border assumptions.
Despite this, Qantas will continue to operate five return flights between Perth and both Melbourne and Sydney to maintain minimum connections for those with permits to travel.
Internationally, flights are still on track to gradually restart from 18 December onwards when Australia is expected to have reached its 80 per cent of eligible adults double vaccinated benchmark.
However, Qantas will temporarily reroute its Perth-London service until at least April 2022 due to the latest WA border settings and assumptions.
Qantas is in discussions with the NT government and Darwin airport to assess operating the direct London flight from Darwin during this time.
If the service can’t operate from Darwin, it will instead fly Melbourne-Singapore-London until at least April 2022.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said it was fantastic to receive some clarity about the plan to reopen Australian borders as the vaccine rollout picks up pace.
“We’re now planning to ramp up flying between Melbourne and Sydney, which is usually the second busiest air route in the world, almost a month earlier than expected,” Mr Joyce said.
“There are also a lot of regional destinations that will open up for the first time since June, which is great news for tourism as well as family and friends who can’t wait to see each other again.
“Based on our discussions with Western Australia, we know their borders won’t be open to NSW and Victoria until early next year, so we’ve sadly had to cancel the flying we had planned on those routes in the lead-up to Christmas.
“We’re in regular discussions with all the states and territories, and will continue to make adjustments, including increasing flying as soon as border settings allow.”
Mr Joyce said the signs were good that people were ready to start booking international travel as soon as flights were offered.
“We saw a 175 per cent spike in web searches in the week after we announced our plans and we’ve seen strong bookings for December and January for our flights to London, Los Angeles and Singapore in particular,” Mr Joyce said.
“The key factor in determining the ongoing demand level for international flying will be what the quarantine arrangements are for Australians when they return.
“The seven-day home quarantine trial in NSW is a great step forward and we’re hoping the system evolves quickly for vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries to not have to quarantine on arrival, particularly given Australia itself is on track to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.”
Should any of the roadmaps change, and flights are cancelled, customers may be eligible for a refund, credit voucher or to change the date of their travel.
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