As restrictions begin to ease around the country, there are a few burning questions we all have – the most obvious one being when air travel in Australia resume. When can we expect to visit family in a different state or sip cocktails on a beach in Bali and what will the flight costs look like?
Some experts have predicted this won’t happen until 2021 or later, but now major airlines have weighed in and, good news, it could be a lot sooner than we thought!
When will air travel in Australia resume?
We still don’t have a definite date but there is talk that we may be back in the air by the end of June.
At this stage, Jetstar has confirmed that most flights (others than essential travel) are still cancelled in Australia and trans-Tasman until the end of June 2020. If you do have a flight booked before then, you will be refunded.
After June 30 2020? We could be seeing the skies open, but this depends on a number of factors, including how well we go with the easing of other restrictions.
We can expect international flights to be on-ground for longer than domestic flights with the exception of New Zealand. You won’t be able to travel in and out of Australia until at least the end of July 2020. After that? We may see some overseas destinations open.
Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, said that international travel should not resume sooner than in “three or four months” which would take us to September. However, many experts predict we won’t be able to travel to the UK or USA until at least 2021.
Qantas head Alan Joyce hinted at some trans-Tasman flights becoming available sooner than other longer haul legs.
“We’re optimistic that domestic travel will start returning earlier than first thought, but we clearly won’t be back to pre-coronavirus levels anytime soon. With the possible exception of New Zealand, international travel demand could take years to return to what it was.”
In terms of keeping our distance when in the air, we could be looking at less-crowded airlines. United Airlines, for example, are “limiting seat selections in all cabins, so customers won’t be able to select seats next to each other or middle seats where available.”
They are also alternating window and aisle seats when seats are in pairs. This is currently in effect on their essential travel flights but this may be the same system that we adapt when the borders do open again.
Jetstar eases travel credit restrictions
Yesterday, Jetstar issued an update by email advising they have provided more flexibility to those who are holding travel credits. Initially, travellers were told they have 12 months to use the credit in one transaction only. However, they have now advised that Jetstar issued travel credit can be used over multiple trips and up to 12 months to book with them. That’s a huge relief for those of us who had booked international flights and have a decent credit up our sleeve!
“Following your feedback, we’ve improved our travel vouchers. From mid-June, all new and existing vouchers issued as a result of the COVID-19 impact on travel can be used across multiple future bookings. That means you can use the value of your voucher to book more than one trip,” Jetstar explained.
Qantas declares cheap fares are on the cards
Earlier in the week, Qantas announced they will be selling flights for as low as $19 (SYD-MEL).
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has reported that Jetstar could offer $19 flights between Sydney and Melbourne when domestic flying restrictions are lifted.
“When we have flying back, we want to reduce that cash burn,” he said. “So we are looking at what airfares we need to fulfil the cash component of getting a plane back in the air.
“As an example, we’d be looking at Melbourne-Sydney on a Jetstar flight. If Jetstar were to cover its cash costs, the airfares could be half of what they are today… you could see Jetstar have $39 airfares, you could see $19 airfares, and we would still cover cash costs on those flights.” Alan Joyce said
This was Qantas’ first major announcement in weeks covering its flight schedule, staff stand-downs and plans to restart flying.
International flight cancellations are extended to end of July, and domestic until June. Some flights were due to restart middle of May.
Qantas is now operating at just 13 per cent of its domestic network flying hours, and 6 per cent of international. That said, they’ve made some bold predictions on when services could ramp up.
“The initial easing of government restrictions suggests some domestic travel may start to return before the end of July – though initial demand levels are hard to predict,” said the statement. “The group will continue to monitor the situation and can increase capacity with a minimum lead time of around one week.”
The current stand-down of employees will be extended until the end of June to match with the reduced network.
Whatever the case, the competitive airline market means cheaper flights for us.
So while those Bintangs in Bali may be a while away still, your all-Aussie adventure could be waiting for you come winter. Fingers crossed, at least!