A snap seven-day lockdown and sudden internal border closures have seen scores of flights in and out of Melbourne canceled and the travel plans of thousands thrown into chaos. The arrivals and departures board at Melbourne Airport is awash with cancelations, with 186 flights canceled on Friday alone.
Fast-moving series of events in Melbourne
Less than one week ago, the Australian state of Victoria was boasting 85 plus days of no locally acquired cases of COVID-19. But an outbreak in Melbourne’s suburbs put an end to that. That outbreak has been traced to a hotel quarantine snafu. On Friday morning, the Victorian State Government had reported a total of 30 cases linked to the latest outbreak.
In recent days, internal Australian borders have started closing to those recently in Melbourne. Border rules change so quickly that passengers inflight are unexpectedly met at the arrival airport by authorities and taken into a 14-day quarantine. This happened this week to more than 100 passengers landing at Darwin. Stories also circulate of passengers been removed from a long-distance train in the outback and escorted in quarantine.
On Thursday, May 27, there were 70 cancelations at Melbourne Airport. Today, the number of cancelations is more than doubling. It is a blow for Melbourne Airport and the airlines that fly there. Melbourne Airport had recovered to about 75% of its 2019 aircraft traffic movements, which usually numbered between 650 and 700 a day until the worldwide travel downturn.
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Airlines hurry to cancel services into Melbourne
Melbourne is a key airport for Australia’s most high-profile domestic airlines – Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, and Rex.
More than 30 Virgin Australia flights in and out of Melbourne have been canceled across Friday. A Virgin Australia spokesperson told Simple Flying;
“We are working to adjust our forward schedule for flights to and from Melbourne over the coming week to better reflect changing travel demand and booking trends.”
A Qantas spokesperson told Simple Flying they’ve canceled 60 flights in and out of Melbourne over Friday.
Simple Flying has also approached Jetstar and Rex to get a figure from each regarding Friday’s Melbourne flight cancelations. The airlines have not responded before our publication deadline. Our total figure of 186 canceled flights across Friday comes from external sources,
Travel bubble flights to Melbourne paused
New Zealand has also paused travel bubble quarantine free flights to and from Melbourne. As a result, Air New Zealand has canceled flights from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown on Friday. Jetstar has canceled its evening flight from Auckland. Qantas also has several flights due into Melbourne on Friday. However, at the time of publication, Simple Flying has been unable to ascertain the status of those flights.
Melbourne’s international terminal expects to handle Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, and Emirates flights on Friday. But those planes won’t be full. Owing to limits on quarantine and health capacities in Victoria, the state only accepts around 1,100 international inbound passengers a week.
Meanwhile, less than 24 hours into Melbourne’s fourth hard lockdown, the smart money is on the week-long lockdown blowing out somewhat longer. Given the key role of Melbourne in Australia’s domestic airline industry, it is a savage financial blow for airlines as they attempt to recover from the 2020 downturn.