Unfortunately, Australia has a government that is unable to take well thought and planned decisions that would make the country move on and give a little breath to the ailing aviation and travel industry which could start planning a new start. It seems that our government officials like to sit on the fence when it comes to making this sort of decision.
If the federal government does not provide clarity on the reopening of international borders, international airlines will be forced to leave the Australian market, says the Australian Airports Association.
It comes at a time when airports have been accused of being unprepared for the resumption of international flights on multiple occasions.
The Sun-Herald reported in a submission for the second review of the current hotel quarantine system, the industry’s inability to adequately prepare for an impending restart of international flights, which is expected to take place within months as the country races to reach 80% vaccination,
This is since airlines need plenty of time to plan their schedules, and the government has not yet provided enough information for regular international flights to begin this year.
“Some international carriers are either already drawing down capacity or preparing to withdraw from Australian ports altogether,” the submission said, noting this could have a “significant” impact on Australia’s reopening plans.
“Given the aviation industry has long six to 12 months lead times for carriers and airports to re-establish international routes, significant planning will need to occur now to ensure airports and airlines are ready.”
Sydney Airport said in its own submission: “It is vital that Australia remains in the minds of airline network planners, and therefore we need to be outlining what re-opening in Australia looks like now.”
Airlines are currently forced to operate flights at a loss because of passenger cap restrictions. The industry should be informed of government plans for handling both caps and quarantine requirements once the 80 percent target is reached.
AAA chief executive James Goodwin stated that considering this, foreign airlines could exit the Australian market for years, as Australia’s reopening lags the rest of the world.
“If [airlines] don’t know what the rules or protocols will be for Australia eight or nine months from now, we could lose them for 2022. Then we’re looking at 2023,” Goodwin said.
“Even if we are talking about being open the middle of next year, those conversations need to be happening now.
“The reality is when we are ready to open up we may not have as many airlines as we were used to. We may find airfares will be more expensive and we may find we have difficulty getting tourists into Australia.”
The federal government is expected to receive a copy of the review later this month, which will inform decisions on how to deal with quarantine following the international restart of the virus’s transmission.
In addition, Dan Tehan, the Minister of Trade and Tourism, announced that the government has begun testing its QR digital vaccine passports to determine their efficacy.
“It’s going to be very difficult to travel without [double vaccination] given most of the airlines are saying you need proof of vaccination, and most countries are saying there will be some sort of proof of vaccination,” Minister Tehan told Sky News.
“That may change over time, but we want to make sure that we are ready to be able to do it.”
“The department is doing everything it can to prepare but longer than usual processing times can’t be ruled out … once you’re fully vaccinated, it’s time to dust off your passport and make sure it is still valid,” Minister Tehan said.
With Australia’s borders reopening and travel restrictions lifted, Hawaiian Airlines has also joined the growing list of airlines returning to Australian skies. Following an 18-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the airline’s website indicates that flights to Sydney and Brisbane will resume on December 15.
While this is happening, other airlines, who had already said goodbye to Australia, have announced their intention to resume regular service in mid-December, ahead of the Christmas holidays. Australia and Canada have both reopened their international borders, allowing Air Canada to resume Sydney-Vancouver flights on December 17. Tickets are now on sale for flights beginning December 17.
But as expected, trans-Pacific travel is only available to those who have been fully vaccinated – and only with vaccines approved by the Canadian government, according to the airline – although this includes the AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Pfizer jabs used in Australia, according to the airline’s statement.
By Joe Cusmano