The federal government says the international borders will reopen next month for states that have fully vaccinated 80 per cent of their population aged more than 16 years, starting with New South Wales.
Qantas says it’s ready for international flights to resume, but flying will look a bit different for a while.
What will flying look like?
Want to fly? You’ll have to be fully vaccinated
Qantas says it’s ready to restart international flights on November 14.
However, it could resume its flights earlier or later than that — it’s just waiting on the federal government to say exactly when borders will reopen so it can adjust its plan accordingly.
Once borders reopen, the airline will operate three weekly return flights between Sydney and London, and three weekly return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles.
The flights will occur on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which hold 236 passengers. Those planes will be able to be fully booked.
More flights will be added to meet demand, if needed.
To fly overseas on a Qantas flight, passengers will need to be fully vaccinated.
It’s expected that people will have to wear masks for the duration of their flights.
How do you prove you’re fully vaccinated?
You’ll be able to access international proof of vaccination certificates, which include a QR code, by the end of October.
The certificates will be available via the myGov website.
National Cabinet released some details on Friday evening:
- The Commonwealth will create an “International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate” for outbound travellers to present at foreign borders and at the Australian border
- The certificate will meet the new standards specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and endorsed by the World Health Organization
- The certificate will display a Visible Digital Seal (VDS), as specified by the ICAO standard. A VDS is a QR code that’s as secure as a passport chip, using the same secure e-passport technology
- The VDS will be compatible with existing passport control systems around the world and with COVID-19 travel apps such as the IATA Travel Pass that scores of airlines are using
- The new international certificates will become available for Australians by the end of October, both digitally and in printable form, through myGov.
Qantas says it will provide passengers with a travel pass that will confirm they’ve met all vaccine and test requirements for every stage of their journey, for whatever country they pass through.
The mobile app that passengers will use is called the IATA Travel Pass app.
Once the government has its vaccination certificate ready, passengers will be able to upload the certificate to the IATA Travel Pass, which will allow them to fly.
Will social distancing still be required?
Qantas says it will comply with whatever rules are in place in different jurisdictions, because different airports or states may have different social distancing requirements.
What about quarantine?
Returning citizens and permanent residents double-dosed with a vaccine recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration will be able to quarantine at home for seven days instead of doing two weeks in hotel quarantine.
The TGA has agreed to recognise the Covishield (India) and Sinovac (China) vaccines.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said recognising Covishield and Sinovac would be important in allowing in Australians and international students from countries where the vaccines were used.
“India is an obvious one of those, as is China and other countries throughout South-East Asia,” the PM said on Friday.
People who are unvaccinated or vaccinated with a jab not recognised by the TGA will need to undertake hotel quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in Australia.
Travel caps will remain for unvaccinated people.
Citizens and permanent residents who can’t be vaccinated, such as children under the age of 12, will be treated as though they are fully vaccinated.
The federal government is also working towards quarantine-free travel for Australians and foreign nationals with countries including New Zealand, Singapore and the South Pacific region.
What’s the industry saying?
Sydney Airport says the plan to resume some international flights next month is very much welcomed.
“This is great news for the thousands of Australians who want to come home or head overseas and reunite with family and friends,” a spokesman said.
“It’s also terrific for the hundreds of businesses at the airport who have been hanging on by their fingernails for the past 18 months, it gives them some genuine hope that the recovery is around the corner.”
The airport said it was prepared for all operations to resume as soon as possible.
“Right through the crisis we’ve been saying we will be ready to go as soon as the government gives the green light on international borders,” the spokesman said.
“The past 18 months have been like an operational boot camp for our frontline teams dealing with constantly evolving processes and requirements, and they’ll take this latest change in their stride.”
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has also welcomed the move to restart flights, calling it “brilliant news for Australia’s decimated travel sector”.
It said Australia’s travel sector had been in lockdown for 600 days, with a third of the travel sector — 15,000 jobs — wiped out.
“We are all desperate to get travelling again, both across Australia and internationally,” said AFTA chair Tom Manwaring.
“Today is a brilliant first step. However, along with eliminating airline seat caps, the aim must be quickly removing all hurdles for all approved, vaccinated inbound passengers to access rapid testing.
“Once they get a negative test, they should be able to go about normal activity immediately.”
What about the unions?
The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has criticised the federal government for risking public health by pushing ahead with a plan to reopen international borders without establishing a national COVID-safe plan for aviation.
It has called for rapid pre-flight testing and vaccine passports across all international and domestic airports, saying COVID-19 cases have been known to spread through domestic air travel following the completion of 14 days quarantine by international passengers.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said that, while flights taking off again would bring relief to struggling workers, the reprieve would be short-lived if safety measures weren’t enforced.
“Resuming international flights in a COVID-safe way is an important part of living with the virus, but we can’t afford to be reckless,” he said.