Airlines in Australia are poised to restart scheduled international operations but low visibility in terms of government direction is stalling hopes of making it onto the runway by late December.
Australia’s tourism and trade minister Dan Tehan, who has been holding a series of meetings with overseas counterparts, says the nation is on track to lift travel restrictions by Christmas at the latest.
The government expects Australians will be able to travel with a QR code link to their passport which will be able to show a proof of vaccination.
However, trade bodies are being more cautious, citing little clarity from Canberra on what the restart of operations might look like.
The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia last month said they had received “limited engagement” with the government and the country still does not have the processes in place to allow for the large-scale recommencement of international travel.
Tom Manwaring, chair of the Australian Federal of Travel Agents (AFTA), blamed lack of guidance and detail around the reopening of borders for slow travel bookings by Australians.
He said the travel sector “will not magically recover the moment international travel becomes possible”. “Without support into either the first half of 2022 or until international travel normalises, the future for our sector and the 25,000 who still work in it is looking pretty grim,” Manwaring added.
“We’ve lost about a third of our sector as a result of the devastating economic impact of Covid.”
Qantas plans for limited international flights to resume from 18 December, offering bookings to destinations such as London, Singapore, Japan and Los Angeles, but the airline will temporarily reroute its flagship non-stop Perth-London service until at least April next year. Instead, it is likely to be replaced by a daily Melbourne-Darwin-London flight or a Melbourne-Singapore-London flight.