International airlines believe Australia is ‘naïve’ to think tourists will take a holiday or business trip Down Under if they have to do a week of quarantine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Qantas boss Alan Joyce all insist international travel will resume by Christmas at the latest.
First will be Australians stranded overseas, but families will soon be able to visit friends and take holidays and do a week of home quarantine on return.
But overseas airlines are far less optimistic and think Australia is overestimating the enthusiasm of foreign tourists and the ease of going on holiday.
International airlines say Australia is ‘naive’ to think tourists will quarantine for a week upon arrival to the country once international travel is allowed
They think it will be more like next year, and when they do, flights will only be at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels due to quarantine requirements.
‘People are awestruck and everyone is so excited to go overseas again and think they’ll be going anywhere they want in 2022 – but that is just so naïve,’ an airline source told The Guardian.
The Board of Airline Representative of Australia which represents airlines including Emirates, Etihad and United, also said Australians eager to fly overseas could face difficulty securing tickets early on because of this uncertainty.
Executive director Barry Abrams said foreign airlines were delaying opening their bookings to more Australian passengers until the government explained the rules around international travel to and from Australia.
Mr Abrams said a large majority of travellers pre-pandemic were tourists without a home to isolate in in Australia.
When borders open up again, it is unlikely they will pick Australia as a destination if quarantine is still compulsory as they would have to forfeit a week and pay for accommodation.
BARA board says Australians could find it difficult to secure tickets overseas due to the uncertainty around the rules and regulations of international travel in Australia
There are issues with the global ticketing system and foreign vaccines coming into Australia and how they will be policed
Because of this, international airlines think most services to Australia in the coming months will only be bringing Australian citizens back home, serving as a ‘stepping stone’ before inbound and outbound tourism is feasible.
The BARA board wanted clarification how hotel quarantine caps for unvaccinated travellers would work and how airlines would recognise returning Australians immunised with foreign vaccines.
It also wants to know how tickets would be sold and vaccine requirements enforced, whether a negative pre-departure test will be required to enter the country, and if rules for airline crews will be relaxed.
‘This is because global ticketing systems are not designed to sell a tiered number of tickets for individual flights based on passengers’ vaccination status, which is unknown to airlines at the point of sale’ BARA said in its monthly report.
Qantas, which lost $1.73 billion last financial year and is desperate to get flying again, insists that at least travel for Australians will be possible within weeks.
Mr Joyce said there was a real prospect of the airline restarting international flights in December as planned but it would depend on quarantine and testing arrangements.
There are currently over 45,000 registered Aussies waiting to come home due to the Delta outbreak and a lack of incoming flights allowing passengers
Inmarsat’s 2021 Passenger Confidence Tracker survey reported 53 per cent of the surveyed Australians said they were concerned about quarantine arrangements when travelling
Ideally this would move beyond quarantine into a rapid test and release system used in many countries where a passenger only needs to isolate until they receive a negative result.
‘So… you don’t have to go into a form of quarantine but worst case, it’s some form of home quarantine,’ Mr Joyce told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
Inmarsat’s 2021 Passenger Confidence Tracker survey found 53 per cent of the 4,500 Australians who responded were concerned about quarantine requirements when travelling.
Forty per cent said they were worried about borders closing when they were abroad and they wouldn’t be able to get into their home country.
Mr Abrams raised the issue of airlines requiring a negative Covid test 72 hours before flights depart as five per cent of Australians abandon their flights home due to last-minute positive test results.
‘To be an airline scheduling flights to Australia now is taking on all of the risk from the government’s lack of clarity,’ he said.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has stated he is optimistic the airline will be able to provide international flights in mid-December but it will rely on quarantine and testing arrangements
There are more than 45,000 Australians stranded overseas registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs wanting to return home.
The international passenger intake of 2,285 people a week was slashed due to the Delta outbreak.
Many stranded Australians hoped to return home on government-charted repatriation flights.
Of the 395,422 seats available on aircrafts flown into Australia in July, only 696,698 were occupied by passengers.
Sometimes aircrafts carried as few as 10 inbound passengers to stay below arrival limits to match capacity in hotel quarantine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison thinks international travel will become available to Australian residents by end of year
Singapore Airlines cancelled many of its international flights between October to December earlier this month due to uncertainty around when caps for international passengers would be lifted.
The airline said it continued to ‘seek clarity on how the Australian Government plans to treat inbound arrivals to Australia for those vaccinated overseas’.
‘We remain committed to keeping Australia connected in a safe manner and have the ability to deploy more capacity should demand warrant,’ Karl Schubert told the ABC.
The national reopening plan states Australia will start opening international borders to ‘safe countries’ with reduced requirements for vaccinated travellers once 80 per cent of the eligible population is vaccinated.
Mr Morrison said this should occur by the end of the year and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said just last week he hoped borders would open before Christmas.