Domestic flying may be slowly opening up in Australia, but the international border remains firmly closed. Despite some concerted campaigns to re-open the border, the current signs suggest that getting in or out of Australia is going to be a tough business for some time to come.
Domestic flying on the up but international borders firmly closed
Yesterday Qantas announced it was doubling its existing domestic schedule to more than 300 return flights per week by the end of June. Flights would further increase in July with capacity expected to be at 40% by that month’s end.
But Australian citizens remain banned from leaving the country unless exceptional circumstances exist. Non-citizens are also blocked from entering Australia.
Despite this, some international flights are operating, catering to passengers returning home and exceptional circumstance travel. Etihad, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines are just three of the airlines that have stepped up their Australian schedules in recent weeks.
While the travel restrictions are broadly supported, many more have itchy feet.
While the situation remains fluid, the message from Australia’s Government is that Australia’s borders will probably remain closed for much of 2020.
Australia – New Zealand travel bubble delayed
But there may be exceptions. The much-discussed travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand will probably get underway before then. But it may not be as soon as expected. There was some hope it would begin in July.
However, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hosed down hopes of travel resuming too soon. The PM says she wants to see infection rates in Australia decrease further. Presently, September is being touted as a start date for the resumption of travel between the two countries.
Several island nations around the Pacific, such as Vanuatu and Fiji, could also slip into any initial travel bubbles. Countries further afield that have managed the crisis well, such as Singapore and Taiwan, might also be on the Australian Government’s radar.
Less likely to be allowed is travel to and from countries where the crisis has not been well managed. That’s bad news for people looking to travel to or from destinations such as the UK and the USA.
Leftfield ideas unlikely to fly
The tough realities haven’t stopped some interesting ideas being floated. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Canberra Airport had cooked up a plan to resume flights between Canberra and Wellington in July, with the first flight inevitably filled by junketing politicians and Chamber members.
No airline normal flies that route. Singapore Airlines tried it a few years ago but soon abandoned it, preferring to operate its tag flight via Melbourne.
“The symbolic route will show we have developed a safe and effective method of air travel and encourage the extension of the aviation networks to other destinations across Australia and New Zealand over time,” said the Australian Chamber of Commerce chairman John Hart in a statement seen by Simple Flying.
But the New Zealand Government has slapped that idea down.
“I have nothing against Canberra, but I am for mass population movement by way of demand rather than capital cities,” said New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters in response.
He’s right. Once travel gets the tick of approval, demand would be such that you could probably run A380s into Auckland for weeks from bigger cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Canberra could be a struggle, though.
Don’t book your tickets to Australia yet
While everyone sits cooling their heels, there’s no shortage of people and groups offering to help out the respective governments with plans and schemes. But one thing’s for sure; the Australian Government is giving every indication they will not be rushed into making a decision.
With the probable exception of places like New Zealand and Fiji, Australia’s borders will likely stay shut throughout most of 2020.