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COVID-19: Melbourne to open to international flights in November

COVID-19: Melbourne to open to international flights in November

While Melbourne and Victoria have been shut down for this last month or so, there have been no international passenger flights in or out of Melbourne.

That has meant other gateways, particularly Sydney Airport have had to bare the brunt of the capacity limits on international arrivals and quarantine. This is all set to change, hopefully, later this month.

Interim Report on hotel quarantine system

Victoria closed its borders on 8 July this year because of a massive breach of the hotel quarantine COVID-19 safe protocols that let the virus spread far outside the hotels. The breach has been responsible for a huge spike in infections and the consequent lockdown of Melbourne and the rest of the state, only easing last week.

The report into that failure is scheduled to be tabled at the end of this week. It is likely to include recommendations on how to run an effective hotel quarantine system.

The Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews thinks this will open the way for overseas flights to resume later this month albeit in a limited way.

“I think it is probably toward the end of November rather than the middle, I would think.”

International arrivals

These are currently limited to about 6,300 per week as follows:

  • Sydney = 2,950
  • Brisbane = 1,000
  • Perth = 1,000
  • Adelaide = 600

Darwin has also been recruited as the destination for Qantas chartered repatriation flights heading for quarantine, which also adds capacity (over and above the 6,300 quoted above) to deal with returning passengers.

If Victoria comes back online then it should slowly increase international arrival capacity close to that of Sydney – say 2,500.

Domestic Borders

Essentially all state borders are now open, except to those who live in Sydney, Victoria, or who want to travel to Western Australia. The Federal government is hopeful that these border restrictions will disappear before Christmas – but I wouldn’t be betting on Western Australia!

Travel Bubbles

The commonwealth government has expressed interest is a series of limited travel ‘bubbles’ between Australia and some other countries with low, or no COVID-19 infections. It’s generally agreed that these might include:

  • New Zealand (already a one-way bubble)
  • Fiji
  • Vanuatu
  • New Caledonia
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Vietnam
  • Taiwan
  • South Korea

Qantas is even talking about opening new routes to the last two.

2PAXfly Takeout

The aviation industry has a difficult road ahead when it comes to sustainability. It’s going to require a relative revolution in technology, with ‘electric planes’ or hydrogen planes, or some form of jet engine that doesn’t require a carbon based fuel. And that is going to require the development of an alternative to jet engines probably.

It’s a big ask. It will take time to develop.

This move to home grown and manufactured SAF is a first step – maybe even a baby step in a very long road of innovation. In the long run, US$200 million won’t even touch the sides.

While I would love to believe this was true – that bubbles will be ‘bursting’ for international travel before Christmas – I doubt it. Victoria, and to a lesser extent New South Wales need to demonstrate their mastery of community spread and hotel quarantine before there will be a level of comfort in opening any international borders.

However, I suspect that some of the Asian destinations will be more comfortable with participating in a ‘bubble’ than New Zealand is. Given their experience with Sars and other outbreaks, it would not surprise me if we opened a bubble with Asia before we open one with NZ.

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