When Could International Tourists Be Allowed Back In Australia?

After moving at a very sluggish pace for 18 months, the Australian government is now picking up the pace when it comes to border reopenings. However, while vaccinated Australians can come and go from November, non-nationals won’t be allowed in just yet.

There are expectations that travel to Australia for fully vaccinated tourists will resume by the end of the year. Photo: Getty Images

Tourists not top of the entry queue

There is no firm timeline, but it is looking likely general tourist traffic will get the green light by the end of the year. Before opening the arrivals gates at Australia’s airports to everyone, the Australian government wants to see how its November partial reopening goes.

“On international visitors, well, we’ll see how Australians coming back first goes there,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said late last week. ”

“We keep taking steps each and every day so we can stay safely open. We don’t want to see what’s happened in other parts of the world where people have moved too fast.”

Ahead of tourists in the queue, the Australian government wants to see international students and foreign workers returning. Education usually is one of Australia’s top income earners and has taken a massive hit since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Foreign workers, especially twenty-something backpackers, are crucial to the country’s hospitality and agricultural sectors. Both industries are under pressure, and that’s something the government has to address.

There are expectations that fully vaccinated foreign workers and international students will be allowed to return to Australia within weeks. Normal tourist traffic will follow that.

The Australian government is taking a one-step at a time approach to reopening borders. Photo: Getty Images

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Airlines adding flights into Australia

Airlines are gearing up for the return of passenger traffic to Australia. While not back to pre-COVID levels, several airlines have ramped up frequencies into Australia over the southern hemisphere summer and stopped blocking seats.

Thai Airways is resuming daily flights to Sydney from November 17 (Thailand is removing quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travelers from selected countries, including Australia, in early November).

All Nippon Airways is boosting its Tokyo – Sydney frequencies to five times weekly from early November. Cathay Pacific will fly between Hong Kong and Sydney ten times weekly from early November and Hong Kong and Melbourne nine times a week from the same date.

Qatar Airways will begin flying to Sydney and Melbourne daily from December 1. Other airlines are upsizing aircraft. Singapore Airlines A380s will make a welcome return to Sydney in early December.

Qantas is bringing its international fleet out of hiatus next month, initially resuming flights to Los Angeles and London from November 1. Other Qantas flights are timetabled to resume over the next few months.

“While these flights will initially be for Australians and their families, we expect tourists from Singapore, South Africa, and India to take advantage of these flights once borders reopen to international visitors,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce last week.

Singapore Airlines is bringing the A380 back to Sydney in December. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines focus on Sydney and Melbourne

Australia’s four big international airports are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. Both the New South Wales (Sydney) and Victorian (Melbourne) governments have confirmed they are dropping quarantine requirements and passenger arrival limits for fully vaccinated travelers and said when this is happening. Western Australia (Perth) and Queensland (Brisbane) have not.

That means for the short term, most international flights will skip Brisbane and Perth in favor of Melbourne and Sydney. That trend is happening already – airlines are laying on capacity into Australia’s two biggest cities but largely ignoring Brisbane and Perth.

It won’t matter what type of traveler you are, Australian or non-Australia, tourist or international student, while Sydney and Melbourne are opening,  it may be well into 2022 before significant international flights into ports beyond Sydney and Melbourne resume.