After a series of repatriation flights in October and November, the Australian Government has reached a deal with Qantas to run further Boeing 787 repatriation flights over the southern hemisphere summer. The news follows reports that tens of thousands of Australians remain stranded overseas, with affordable seats on Australia-bound planes as rare as hen’s teeth.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s AM program on Friday said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had organized further repatriation flights in December. Two new cities on the departures board are Paris and Germany.
“DFAT has now organized two Qantas flights in December, one from Germany, the other from France. Australians must make their own way there, and the cost of a ticket is about (AUD) $2000.”
The report added all passengers must get a COVID-19 test no more than two days before the flight leaves. Upon arrival in Australia, all passengers will go into a 14-day quarantine at the Howard Springs quarantine center outside Darwin in northern Australia.
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Paris & Frankfurt added to the Qantas roster of repatriation cities
This followed the Qantas CEO earlier flagging the likelihood that Qantas would lay on further repatriation flights over Christmas and the New Year. Alan Joyce told the ABC on Monday;
“We’re working with the government on a lot more of those flights occurring,” he said.
A Qantas spokesperson told Simple Flying today that ten repatriation flights will run over the southern summer period. Three will depart from London, three from New Delhi, two from Frankfurt, and one each from Paris and Chennai. The arrival dates into Australia are;
Qantas’ 787 Dreamliners will operate all services, and all flights will have strict safety protocols in place for passengers and crew.
“We’re helping bring more Australians home,” the Qantas spokesperson said.
An estimated 36,000 Australians still trying to get home
DFAT has 36,000 Australian’s overseas registered as wanting to get home. About a quarter of those are considered ‘vulnerable’, that is, unwell, out of cash, or potentially homeless. However, as Simple Flying has reported, it has been a struggle for many of them to get home. Limits on the number of inbound international passengers have restricted the number of airline seats available for sale. If a seat can be found, the price is often sky high.
The government underwritten repatriation flights have been operated on a cost-recovery basis by Qantas. Fares from Europe have been starting at around the $2000 level. That’s substantially less than what most carriers currently charge to fly to Australia.
Qantas doesn’t decide who gets the cheapest fares
But that hasn’t stopped criticism. Alan Joyce was challenged in an interview on Monday over allegations a passenger had to pay for a business class seat on an earlier repatriation flight.
“The inventory is made available to the government first. The very cheap seats, in the economy, go to people in distress. They need to get home, they haven’t got the financial wherewithal to get there. Then it’s made available to the rest of the traveling public,” Mr Joyce said.
“People are not seeing those cheap seats because they are being given, using the High Commission in each of these countries, to people who really need them. I think you have to get the government to prioritize, which they are doing.”
Alan Joyce thinks the system is working fairly well. He’s a frequent critic of government. But in this case, he thinks they are targeting the right people for these flights and getting them safely home.