The federal government has announced international borders are likely to open next month for states with 80 per cent vaccinated citizens – putting NSW in the box seat.
Fully vaccinated Australians and permanent residents arriving to NSW will be able to home quarantine for seven days instead of using the expensive hotel quarantine system.
This will make it far more attractive to travel than the present two weeks in a hotel, where travellers are forced to pay the bill.
“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who added quarantine free travel with some countries like New Zealand would also be considered.
“We must work together to ensure that Australians can reclaim the lives that they once had in this country.
Unvaccinated travellers will be required to hotel quarantine for a fortnight.
The borders were shut in March, 2020 because of the pandemic.
Each state will begin to allow international travel once it reaches the 80 per cent vaccinated population target.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said: “The early reopening of Australia’s international borders will mean so much to so many people and it’s made possible by the amazing ramp up of the vaccine rollout.
“We know Australians can’t wait to travel overseas and be reunited with their loved ones, and literally thousands are waiting to come back home, so this faster restart is fantastic news. It also means we can get more of our people back to work, sooner.
“We welcome the Federal Government’s decision and the work by the New South Wales Government to facilitate the home quarantine approach that makes this feasible. We look forward to other States and Territories getting on board.
“We’d already sold out some of our international flights for December and seen strong demand on flights to and from London and Los Angeles, so we’re confident there will be a lot of interest in these earlier services.
“We know many frequent flyers have been stockpiling their points over the past 18 months to use on an overseas flight, so we’re making more seats available to be booked with points alone.
“Beyond the initial rush, the ongoing demand for international flights will hinge largely on what the quarantine requirements are. The shift to seven day home quarantine for fully vaccinated Australians with a negative test is a great step towards reducing this closer to what is becoming standard in many countries overseas, which is a test and release program.”
But the move wasn’t universally popular. Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said Tasmanians wouldn’t be going anywhere before 90 per cent, and Western Australia and Queensland are also hesitating.
Last week Tourism Minister Dan Tehan reiterated the government’s stance that Australians would be allowed to travel internationally by Christmas “at the latest”.
Australians have already indicate where they want to go. Searches for flights to Britain rose 28 per cent last week and those to the US were up 13 per cent, according to a Flight Centre.
Fiji and Singapore are vying for our tourism dollars, as are Los Angeles, Vancouver and Tokyo.
Sydney and Melbourne to the Gold Coast are the most in demand in December and January, followed by those from Brisbane to Hamilton Island.
The travel industry expects the surge now that the borders are opening – but first, we need to find out who will accept us.
Our Astrazenecer vaccine is yet to be accepted in Europe and we are still working on a digital vaccine passport.
So don’t pack your bags quite yet.
A recent survey of users by the platform found 61 per cent said travel was more important to them now than it was before the pandemic. Two-thirds were willing to accept only being able to travel if they could prove they had received a Covid-19 vaccine.
“Our data shows our exploratory appetite and desire to get back to travel as soon as possible remains strong and we’re expecting a very busy travel period over Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” said Melissa Ellison, the company’s Australian manager.
“It’s reassuring to see that after a year of unpredictable events from outbreaks to earthquakes, Aussies have high hopes to return to not just domestic but international travel soon too.”
Travellers stuck in the NSW and Victorian lockdowns have begun to make bookings nationwide, said Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson, in the hopes that open travel is on the cards.
“There’s a whole lot of bookings sitting in Queensland, that’s for sure, and those bookings are holding at the moment,” he said.
“People are still keeping positive to think that they will be able to get over that border for Christmas and the upcoming holiday summer holiday period but they will be very much listening (to government).”
For Airbnb, the interest for December and January travel appears firmly in seaside holidays. Its list of searched destinations is topped by the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, followed by Byron Bay and the NSW mid-north coast, the Great Ocean Road and Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, and Jervis Bay.
Qantas will bring forward the restart of its international flights to 14 November 2021, following the Federal Government’s announcement that Australia’s borders will open in November.
The national carrier will operate three weekly return flights between Sydney and London and three weekly return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles with its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. These two destinations have been the most searched on qantas.com in recent weeks. More flights will be added to meet demand, if needed.
Fares are now on sale for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and some visa holders. Fares start from $1662 return for Sydney-Los Angeles and $1869 return for Sydney-London.
All flights on both routes for the first week will be ‘Points Planes’, meaning frequent flyers can access uncapped Classic Flight Reward seats across all cabins. Seats on these flights will also be available as regular flight bookings.
Once the Federal Government announces the exact date that Australia’s international borders will reopen in November, the commencement dates for these two routes may need to be updated.
Flights will be brought forward if its earlier than 14 November or moved to later in the month if necessary. Customers booked on these flights will have the flexibility to make ‘fee free’ date changes for travel until 31 December 2022 (a fare difference may apply). If flights are cancelled customers may also be eligible for a refund or credit voucher.
As previously indicated, all passengers on Qantas’ international flights will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognised vaccine (some exemptions for medical reasons and children). They will also be required to return a negative PCR COVID test 72 hours prior to departure.
Customers on these flights will be required to home quarantine for seven days on arrival into Australia, in accordance with the requirements from the Federal and New South Wales governments.
At this stage, all other international routes that were scheduled to resume from 18 December 2021 will continue as planned, although the Group has the flexibility to add additional routes if other states and territories decide to open their borders earlier and reduce quarantine requirements to seven days at home, or less.
International flights remain subject to Government and Regulatory approval.
Qantas will continue to operate government-sponsored repatriation services as required, helping to bring Australians home from around the world, including home quarantine trial flights.