(01 Oct 2021) Qantas will bring forward the restart of its international flights to 14 November 2021, following today’s announcement by the Federal Government that Australia’s borders will open in November.
The national carrier will operate thrice weekly return flights between Sydney and London, and thrice weekly return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
Once the Federal Government announces the exact date that Australia’s international borders will reopen in November, the commencement dates for the two routes may need to be updated. Qantas has said that flights will be brought forward if it is earlier than 14 November, or moved to later in the month if necessary.
All flights on both routes for the first week will be ‘Points Planes’, meaning frequent flyers can access uncapped Classic Flight Reward seats across all cabins. Seats on those flights will also be available as regular flight bookings.
Fares are now on sale for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and some visa holders. Fares start from A$1662 return for Sydney-Los Angeles and A$1869 return for Sydney-London.
Customers booked on the flights will have the flexibility to make ‘fee free’ date changes for travel until 31 December 2022, although a fare difference may apply. If flights are cancelled, customers may also be eligible for a refund or credit voucher.
As previously indicated, all passengers on Qantas’ international flights will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognised vaccine (some exemptions for medical reasons and children). They will also be required to return a negative PCR COVID19 test 72 hours prior to departure.
Customers on the flights will be required to home quarantine for seven days upon arrival into Australia, in accordance with the requirements of the Federal and New South Wales governments.
At this stage, all other international routes that were scheduled to resume from 18 December 2021 will continue as planned, although the airline has said that it has the flexibility to add additional routes if other states and territories decide to open their borders earlier and reduce quarantine requirements to seven days at home, or less.
The international flights remain subject to government and regulatory approval.
Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, said, “The early reopening of Australia’s international borders will mean so much to so many people and it’s made possible by the amazing ramp up of the vaccine rollout. We know Australians can’t wait to travel overseas and be reunited with their loved ones, and literally thousands are waiting to come back home, so this faster restart is fantastic news. It also means we can get more of our people back to work, sooner.
“We welcome the Federal Government’s decision and the work by the New South Wales Government to facilitate the home quarantine approach that makes this feasible. We look forward to other States and Territories getting on board. We’d already sold out some of our international flights for December and seen strong demand on flights to and from London and Los Angeles, so we’re confident there will be a lot of interest in these earlier services.
“We know many frequent flyers have been stockpiling their points over the past 18 months to use on an overseas flight, so we’re making more seats available to be booked with points alone. Beyond the initial rush, the ongoing demand for international flights will hinge largely on what the quarantine requirements are. The shift to seven day home quarantine for fully vaccinated Australians with a negative test is a great step towards reducing this closer to what is becoming standard in many countries overseas, which is a test and release program.”
Qantas will continue to operate government-sponsored repatriation services as required, including home quarantine trial flights.
Philip Goh, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific, said, “This is a step forward. But more can still be done. The announcement of the November timeline and the removal of the international arrival caps are positive steps forward. The reduction of quarantine period and introduction of home quarantine for vaccinated Australians are also steps in the right direction. We welcome the use of rapid antigen tests for international travel. However, still more can be done. Realistically, the woes of the travel and tourism sectors will persist as long as passenger caps are retained for unvaccinated arrivals and quarantine remains even for the vaccinated. International travel recovery will be muted and restrained when quarantine remains.
“Ultimately, the need to quarantine should be removed for those who are vaccinated and who test negative prior to departure for Australia. We urge the Australian government to follow guidance from WHO on a risk-based approach. This includes relaxing measures and/or quarantine requirements for travelers who are fully vaccinated. And to provide alternatives for unvaccinated individuals through testing. A number of major states – the US, Canada, European states, have lifted quarantine requirements for international arrivals. Australia needs to work towards a similar approach. Airlines will also need more details if this is to be operationalized in November. Hence it is essential that the Australian government steps up its engagement with the aviation sector, to help airlines prepare for the safe and efficient re-opening of Australia’s borders.”