Faced with a large backlog of Aussies trying to get home, Qatar Airways has quietly stopped accepting new bookings to Australia. The country is only accepting 4,000 international arrivals a week. That includes its own citizens. Because of this, airlines reckon it will take months to clear the backlog of Australians trying to get home. Air New Zealand has declined to accept new bookings to Australia for some time. Now Qatar Airways is going down the same path.
It’s challenging to fly to Australia
A report in The Weekend Australian quoted Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker discussing the present difficulties of flying into Australia. The airline has won fans by continuing to maintain services into multiple Australia cities throughout 2020. But Mr Al Bakar says his Australian flights are now a challenge to operate.
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In early July, the Australian Government placed limits on how many inbound international passengers could arrive at Australian airports. Adelaide and Brisbane have been accepting 500 passengers weekly. Sydney Airport accepts 350 passengers a day.
The Australian Government is also telling airlines how many passengers can come in on each flight, sometimes as few as 30 passengers.
The Board of Airline Representative of Australia (BARA) is a lobby group for international airlines that fly in Australia. They say around 100,000 Australians are trying to get home. With the current allowable repatriation rate, it will take about six months to clear the backlog.
Furious passengers stranded around the world
It comes amid stories of passengers getting bumped off flights more than a dozen times. Airlines are reportedly triaging passengers based on need. The same airlines are needing to maximize revenues from very small passenger manifests. They’ve been requiring those passengers who do get to fly to buy business class tickets. These tickets are costing more than ten thousand dollars per passenger.
It’s a real mess and one that’s left stranded and maxed out passengers furious. Airlines are wearing much of the brunt. To clear the backlog of bumped passengers, Air New Zealand had already stopped taking new bookings on their flights to Australia.
Qatar Airways has now made the same decision.
“Many disappointed passengers are unable to travel as per their travel plans,” Mr Al Baker was reported saying in The Weekend Australian.
“Given the restrictions, we cannot accommodate these passengers on an alternative flight the following day, where we face the exact same issue to the problem continues to grow daily.”
Are special repatriation flights back on the horizon?
Meanwhile, there are some reports that the Australian Government will begin organizing special repatriation flights. Local media is suggesting repatriated travelers will all go into a 14-day quarantine in a government facility in northwest Australia, most likely in a disused detention center.
While these reports persist, senior Government officials have said the plan is news to them.
The present situation is causing widespread distress. A simple way of alleviating this is to allow airlines like Qatar to bring more passengers into Australia. But until the current restrictions do get relaxed, Qatar Airways will work on clearing its backlog of bumped passengers, 30 to 50 passengers per flight.