Etihad has moved swiftly to reassure fliers it will continue to operate its services to and from Sydney and Melbourne after rival UAE carrier Emirates suddenly dropped all services to Australia’s East Coast capital cities.
The move by Emirates to suspend flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane due to “operational reasons” was in response to flight caps imposed by the Australian government.
International flight caps in three states — New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia — were last week slashed by 50% until 15 February due to the threat of the new highly transmissible strain of Covid-19 from the UK.
Emirates will still operate two weekly flights to and from Perth.
Hundreds of Australians have been left stranded by the Emirates move but Etihad confirmed it would continue its five times per week Australia connections via Abu Dhabi across the Middle East, Europe and North America.
Emirates has also suspended all flights to Hong Kong, until 22 January. The move follows a directive from Hong Kong authorities.
A dozen or so international airlines are still operating to Australia – they include Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air and Qatar Airways – but apart from Qatar the services are limited to one or two a week.
And all flights (except arrivals from New Zealand) are subject to the limited arrival caps, so the airlines can only sell up to 50 seats per flight, making the services unviable even when topped up by cargo revenue.
Sadly, the outlook for 2021 does not offer much hope for international airlines serving Australia.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said it is unlikely international borders will substantially reopen this year, even if most people are vaccinated against coronavirus.