ISRAEL: Repatriation flights, update on Qantas and Virgin participation
Qantas is sending an Airbus A380 from London via Singapore to Sydney for the repatriation of Australians from Israel. All seats are designated for Australians leaving Israel on the previously announced flights from Tel Aviv on Friday and Sunday. The Superjumbo A380 with its 484 seats, should accommodate the two flights out of Israel with 236 seats each.
The Australian Government and Qantas have already announced repatriation flights leaving today, and Sunday flying from Tel Aviv to London . The flights use 787 Dreaminers, and are subject to ‘ongoing safety and security assessments, and regulatory approvals in several countries‘.
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Volunteers for repatriation flights
Qantas called for volunteers from its ranks to staff the flights, given their associated dangers. Over 900 staff put their names forward to operate the flights. That’s more than 10 times the 70 staff required.
Qantas has had to redeploy some aircraft and flights, which will affect some already booked passengers on their international network. Qantas is in the process of contacting those travellers, to make other arrangements.
Virgin Australia and Qatar offer assistance
A leaked internal staff memo reported by the AFR indicates that Virgin Australia has also offered assistance in repatriating Australians. It has involved its international partner Qatar Airways. The options canvassed involve a Virgin Boeing 737 which is currently in Abu Dhabi undergoing servicing, could fly between Amman in Jordan, adjacent to Israel, and Doha, with Qatar picking up the passengers there and transporting them to Australia. Qatar is also open to flying into Tel Aviv.
Qatar has some track record here, as it assisted during the fall of Kabul when that Taliban took over in 2021.
Virgin Australia have confirmed the internal post, but did not offer any further comment.
At this stage there is no indication that the Australian Government has taken up the offer.
Advice on registering for the repatriation flights
If you are Australian and want to leave Israel via Australia’s assisted-departure flights, you need to register at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller website. If you have already registered with DFAT’s Crisis Porthole you do not need to register again.
For urgent consular assistance, Australians should continue to call the Australian Government’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas) or 1300 555 135 (from within Australia).
There is some irony in Qatar offering to help when it so recently has been rejected by the Australian Governemtn to fly additional flights into Australia. However, that needs to be put aside in these horrific circumstances in the Levant.
I hope the government and airlines involved will act in the interests of those stranded in the conflict zone, and help them escape current circumstances.