COVID-19: Repatriation flights. Darwin Quarantine
With the departure at 9 pm this evening (22 October 2020), AEST (11 am London time) of Qantas flight QF110 from Heathrow, the Australian Federal Government is finally addressing the plight of something like 29,000 Australians registered with DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) currently stuck overseas who want to return to Australia. They are stuck overseas because of the limits imposed by State Governments on arrivals at their International airports.
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The Northern Territory Government has now agreed to a deal with the Federal Government to use a former workers camp (used for quarantine way back at the start of the pandemic) to quarantine roughly 1,000 returning Australians per month. Those returning will still need to complete 14 days in quarantine like everyone currently arriving from overseas.
Qantas is expecting to return about 1,315 Australians from India (4 flights from New Delhi), the United Kingdom (3 flights from London), and South Africa (1 from Johannesburg). The dates and arrival airport for the Johannesburg flight is yet to be determined.
- London to Darwin 22 October, 7 & 11 November
- New Delhi to Darwin 26 October, 9, 23 & 27 November
- Johannesburg to Australia TBA
DFAT will be contacting registered travellers to offer them the flights, all on 787-9 Dreamliners, given that all the Jumbo’s are in boneyards, and the A380’s are all in longterm storage. Other flights may be added later, and those in financial trouble can ask for assistance.
Passengers will be tested 48 hours before departure and only those with negative results will be allowed to embark. Masks will be mandatory on the flight, and passengers will be COVID tested again on arrival in Australia. Qantas staff will be in full PPE, providing a reduced service, with crew-only areas at the back and front of the aircraft. All those staffing the flights will be volunteers.
There have been some complaints about price gouging by airlines for international fights into Australia. Most of this is really about trying to make some money towards the cost of the flights. If you can only carry 35 passengers because of capital city capacity restrictions on arrivals, then charging AU$5,000 to AU$10,000 for a one way ticket from Europe would hardly touch the sides of the flight running costs.
These flights are better priced, with a one-way economy fares from London being AU$2,150, Johannesburg – AU$1,750 and AU$1,500 from New Delhi, plus taxes.
Gosh, some of this information is hard to find. Your best bet is to monitor the Smartraveller website, if you are stranded overseas, and register yourself. Otherwise, you are just left with the Prime Ministers press release!
Who knew that 398,000 Australians have already returned to Australia since March 13? We are a nation of travellers!
It’s good to see this change in opinion from the Government that seemed to have pursued an ‘if you didn’t heed our warning to return to Australia back in March, Damn you!‘ approach up until now. It’s not like Qantas haven’t had aircraft lying around, or that the quarantine facility near Darwin hasn’t been vacant since March, is it?
Better late than never – I suppose. Travel safe.