After months of wrangling, Qantas is operating a repatriation flight from Indonesia on Wednesday. Some 780 Australians are stranded in Indonesia and registered with the Australian Government. Today, around one-quarter of them have a ticket home and straight into quarantine.
Qantas A330-200 heads to Denpasar today
On Wednesday morning, a Qantas Airbus A330-200 departed Sydney for Denpasar as QF43. VH-EBM has spent six days in Sydney before today’s six-hour hop up to Denpasar. Flying time between Denpasar and Darwin later today is around three hours.
While Denpasar is only a short distance from Australia, flights between the two countries are scarce. In 2019, the last year of normal services, 3,429,671 people flew between Australia and Indonesia (or vice versa). The bulk of those passengers (3,148,003 people) flew in or out of Denpasar on one of the 17,536 direct flights on offer that year.
Fast forward to August 2021, and there are no regularly scheduled commercial flights between Denpasar and any Australian airport. There is one Garuda flight a week between Jakarta and Sydney. However, speculation swirls about the future of that service amid Garuda’s mounting financial problems and strict limits on the number of passengers Garuda can put on that service.
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Just one flight a week between Indonesia & Australia
A lot of Australians live or work in Bali, normally commuting back and forth. But that commuting has come to a halt. Thousands of Australians remain in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia. Not all want to head back to Australia, but for those that do, it has been a struggle. DFAT considers approximately 350 of the 780 registered Australians in Bali as vulnerable.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) organize Qantas’ repatriation flights. DFAT has experienced some criticism for neglecting Australians stranded in Indonesia. Today’s Airbus A330 service remains the only Denpasar flight organized so far. Stranded Australians snapped up all of the available tickets within minutes.
“We continue to explore options for Australians to return,” DFAT says in a statement. But some Australians who’ve made it home have praised DFAT, saying they’ve assisted in securing reasonably priced seats on the weekly Garuda flight to Sydney.
Some behind the scenes work from DFAT
Reports suggest DFAT has secured seats on the Garuda flight for as little as US$1815. Further reports suggest saying specialist travel agencies with good Indonesian connections can see seats available for around US$3,260. Seats sold via Garuda’s website, if any are available, run to around US$6,400. Garuda is limited to carrying around 25 passengers on its Sydney flight.
Seats on today’s Qantas repatriation flight started at about US$750. Passengers also need to pay for their mandatory 14-day quarantine in Australia – that’s roughly US$1800. However, a family package of US$3,630 is also available.
Attempts to organize private charters from Denpasar have fallen through because the small number of passengers allowed on the flight forces the ticket cost up to unreasonable levels.
Qantas advises the Airbus A330 flight from Denpasar should land in Darwin around 19:30 (local time) on Wednesday.