Qantas this week announced that international tickets will be on sale from 1 July even though there’s no guarantee Australians will be able to fly.
Australians should not get too excited about overseas travel, despite Qantas’s announcement, with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who is also the Transport Minister, saying the government decides on when borders will open, not the airlines.
“The border will only fully reopen once COVID-19 is no longer a public health risk,” said Mr McCormack.
“Decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian government,” he said on Tuesday.
Australian citizens are still banned from leaving the country unless they are essential workers or have an exemption, which can include business travel or compassionate reasons.
Mr McCormack accepts that ticket sales are a commercial decision for airlines but warns travellers that borders may remain closed beyond the middle of this year.
Qantas’ decision to start selling international tickets is based on best case scenarios of a vaccine rollout and COVID-19 control. Any customers purchasing tickets will receive full refunds or will be able to rebook or receive travel credits should any flights be cancelled, or travel arrangements be hampered by COVID-19.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce has already said the airline would require travellers to be vaccinated prior to boarding and that the wide distribution of a vaccine would be necessary for quarantine-free travel to resume to destinations such as the US and UK.
The federal government also says it may also require compulsory vaccinations for travellers. However, it still has not decided on its final position on future COVID-19 vaccination policies.
Qantas is optimistic flights to parts of the US and UK could restart as soon as July 2021. It does, however, say vaccines will need to be rolled out widely across these destinations within the next six months before it restarts travel to these nations.
Assuming all goes to plan, services to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan will also resume on 1 July.
“We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation,” said a Qantas spokesperson.
Currently, New Zealand is the only international destination to which Qantas is flying.
Even when the airline restarts long-haul flying it will be at a significantly reduced capacity.
Would you consider booking international flights as soon as they are available?