Australian Government pushes to increase international passenger caps

The Deputy Prime Minister is asking the states and territories to welcome home an extra 2,000 Australians each week.

By Chris Chamberlin , September 16 2020
Australian Government pushes to increase international passenger caps

The Australian Government is working with the nation’s states and territories to increase the intake of international arriving passengers by 50%, to help tens of thousands of Australians return home from abroad.

With limits currently set at 4,000 overseas arrivals per week, the Government’s plan would push this to 6,000, with each jurisdiction except for Victoria asked to either increase their existing intake, or to begin taking international arrivals, to help spread the load.

“I’ve written to the Premiers and to the Chief Ministers to try to make that possible,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told media today.

“What we want to see is more Australians being able to come home. At the moment, there’s about 4,000 coming home per week – I want to raise that to 6,000."

Of the additional 2,000 arriving passengers each week, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia will each take one quarter, or 500 additional passengers per state.

However, this represents a much smaller proportion of the increase for NSW – which now accepts 2,450 arrivals each week, bearing the brunt of the national load – compared to Queensland and WA, where current weekly caps are pegged at 500.

South Australia will accept an additional 360 weekly arrivals, with the Deputy PM seeking confirmation from Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory as to how many international arrivals they’re able to quarantine at this point in time.

Michael Thomson, Head of Aviation at Canberra Airport, told Executive Traveller "we would welcome repatriation flights and are willing to work with all of the relevant authorities to make it happen."

As for Victoria, which continues to struggle with a second wave of COVID-19 infections, McCormack said that "until the situation improves to a better state, there won’t be international flights into Melbourne."

Airlines sound a cautious welcome

Qatar Airways, which has become Australia's largest airline during the pandemic, said it "appreciates Australian authorities for approving ad hoc extra capacity above the cap for compassionate, humanitarian and essential workers cases."

“We are pleased to see the announcement by the Australian Government that it will increase the cap on international arrivals to Australia allowing more Australians to be reunited with their families and loved ones," said Qatar Airways CEO His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker.

"Qatar Airways has always maintained a long-term commitment to Australia and our support to Australian passengers has not waivered despite the challenges of COVID-19. We have been flying continuously during the pandemic, without any interruption to our service to Australia, and we are here to further serve our customers with our modern and efficient fleet."

The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, which represents over 30 international airlines serving Australia, welcomed this morning's announcement with the rider that “its usefulness to Australians stranded overseas will depend on when the permitted increases take effect and are incorporated into the per flight caps issued to international airlines.”

BARA executive director Barry Abrams also said that adding flights to secondary international airports such as Canberra, Hobart and Darwin “might not be commercially viable for airlines and hence not help Australians stranded overseas.”

“While it might be possible for some aircraft types to fly to such airports, it would come with many challenges for international airlines,” Abrams told Executive Traveller.

“It would need commercially viable combined inbound and outbound passenger loads plus freight, which may be difficult to obtain. The international airline may also not have existing agreements in place for necessities, including fuel, aircraft servicing and baggage handling, all of which take time to establish.”

The move follows much frustration from Australians stuck abroad, as well as from the international airlines serving Australia: some of which have paused new ticket sales into the country until the current caps were lifted, with others prioritising business class passengers to help cover the high cost of flying largely empty aircraft.

Read: Airlines call for the government to lift limits on inbound travellers

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 72

This will do little to fix the issue. Time for the government to lift the arbitrary and draconian caps on arrivals. This is the sort of policy that happens when government is populated by public servants with no real work experience. 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

KW72 most/many of the public servants you refer to are invariably hospital officials who are doctors who do shifts usually in emergency or COVID wards, so not quite sure there is no work experience. I note the federal government hasn’t rushed to open federal facilities to quarantine in. In particular the mining camp near Darwin that holds a few thousand.

05 Jan 2018

Total posts 37

public servants have no skin in the game. they pay no price for mistakes they make. they are never subject to market forces for pay or employment or working conditions. and they pretty much exempt themselves from most policies they inflict on the citizen.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

23 May 2018

Total posts 5

KW72, you are totally on the ball ! Life goes on for Australian public servants while we all suffer . They are paying themselves more to create new rules and regulations to impose on us as the economy goes down the plughole.!

07 May 2020

Total posts 38

The last ones standing will be the politicians and the public servants. Then they might wonder how they will pay their own salaries. These are the mist selfish people on the planet.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 82

I can ask, you can write, she can lobby and he can go in front of the TV cameras, but until the state premiers say yes, it is just talk.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 191

Yep, agree with all these comments. Totally clueless bureaucrats creating unworkable rules.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2020

Total posts 4

As for comments blaming public servants - well, they (the comments) are more likely to be the ill-informed.

02 May 2018

Total posts 4

Please understand this is a STATE Government issue. It is the States who demanded weekly limits while they were paying for the quarantine. Now incoming passengers are charged to quarantine the States have zero credibility in maintaining their caps. WA for example could have been putting 1000s out on Rottnest Island for months with almost no security worries. They also have ankle bands they could be using to let people quarantine at home. Blame the Premiers for this mess.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2020

Total posts 4

1.  Quarantine is, by virtue of the Australian Constitution, a commonwealth jurisdictional responsibility.

2. Cost is not the only, indeed not necessarily the primary consideration.  We've seen what happens when you go for the cheapest option.
3. The key phrase is Supervised Quarantine - whilst it might be referred to as Hotel Quarantine, it is the supervision that is the key element.  Again, we've seen the results of inadequate supervision - of guests/detainees (call them what you will); and of the staff involved in provision of services.
4. The suggestion of putting thousands of people on Rottnest Island (over the months) demonstrates a lack of understanding of the problem - unless there are hundreds of self-contained, secured, independent accommodation facilities already there.
5.  Likewise, ankle bands might alert authorities of the wearer's location (or change in location, etc.) but they don't supervise the wearer and alert authorities if one or more other persons enter the premises - unlawfully in breach of the concept of Quarantine!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

Azuroo Rottnest has capacity for hundreds not thousands and over two weeks it probably would not even be 100/day. Blaming the states alone when commonwealth facilities are unused seems a bit of a stretch.

16 Jul 2020

Total posts 2

McGowans playing to the public because he wants his job renewed at the next election....sadly the will vote him in. Stars need to be taken out. 3 levels of go to for 26m people a lot of waste and fat. 

11 Jul 2020

Total posts 30

Mr McCormack has got his big mirror out and he is looking into it. Why not address this issue and call an emergency federal cabinet meeting, that would be far quicker.

Like I have said on other post this federal goverment is reactive not proactive. They are always playing catchup. We all know what needs to be done it's a pitty the federal government is always dragging its feet on important matters like this one.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

23 May 2018

Total posts 5

This is a national/federal issue and Donald Trumps buddy, the illustrious PM should get out from behind the bush he is hiding behind and deal with the Mickey Mouse State governments, Its not just flights but equally/more so the interstate quarantine debacle. It is a global embarrassment given the low level of Covid in Australia . Australian families cannot even reunite across state borders even for humanitarian reasons . Its a disgrace and after the bush-fires Morrison is keeping his head down trying to avoid even more sticking to him! 

15 Aug 2018

Total posts 18

Electronically monitored (wristband +tracking app) home quarantine, as used for months in HK/Singapore/Taiwan for LOW risk country arrivals. Save hotel quarantine for HIGH risk country arrivals only. 

This one measure would mean the caps can be removed. Why is even one hotel room wasted on arrivals from NZ or Taiwan for instance?

Why can domestic positive cases be trusted to isolate at home without even electronic monitoring whilst other Australians coming from zero or low ( similar to NSW) COVID countries are locked up in this money-go-round hotel quarantine system. 

09 May 2017

Total posts 32

We have a home to go to and could quarantine much more safely and healthily than in the static cruise ships that are hotel quarantine with the singapore approach.  Would take a mud hut at this point though tbh.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

Ijcoz I broadly agree, but it would require the Singapore police state as well. But do remember it did get away in Singapore for a while and the lockdown was very severe

02 Jul 2020

Total posts 7

Well I got really excited there for a minute.

What a crock.

And the mention of Hobart - while Hobart likes to call itself an "international airport" (because it had a flight from New Zealand once I think), it's nowhere near even close to anything of international standard. It's barely domestic standard. It's little more than a series of shipping containers with Welcome to Hobart written on them.

So in other words, nothing has changed...

Alrighty then. 

02 May 2018

Total posts 4

It was the STATE Governments that DEMANDED their own daily maximum arrivals guys, sorry to burst your bubbles.

"Singapore Police State"?????........anyone looked at Victoria lately? makes Singapore seem like Club Med

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

Azuroo you forget the Singapore dormitory in room lockdown that went for weeks. See https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/in-focus-covid19-singapore-migrant-worker-dormitories-lockdown-13081210 

08 May 2020

Total posts 6

There were plenty of hotel facilities at the start of the pandemic.  This is nothing about facilities and everything about money, federal gvt needs to dust off its wallet.

16 Jul 2020

Total posts 2

In WA, Mark (I ate a bad oyster) McGowan says he was blindsided by the decision to increase the numbers. He needs to be blindsided a number of times so he’ll wake up. 

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 60

Plenty of rooms available. The issue is apparently manpower. Strange considering the number of airline, travel industry, retail and hospo personnel currently laid off or on jobkeeper. These people have experience in customer service, security, cleaning, maintenance, project management.....All out there desperate for work. 

16 Jun 2020

Total posts 9

Financially public servants have been affected zero, plus they receive their annual pay rise, they are enjoying this, watching the private sector suffer. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2020

Total posts 4

Incorrect, wrong, ill-informed, and again: wrong.

I won't bother citing the facts, or linking to them - the truth is out there as they say.

16 Jun 2020

Total posts 9

All this talk on borders, sounds like Europe or the like,  unlike the US that has State Lines dividing each State, that makes sense. US southern border between US and Mexico, Northern border between Canada, whereas here in Australia we appear to have a border between each State/Territory 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

FL350 it is worth noting Hawaii requires two weeks quarantine as well, and New York state was closed for few weeks. So in the US states can be opened and closed as needs be. A few of the northern Canadian states are closed/restricted as well.

16 Jun 2020

Total posts 9

Patrickk, obviously Alaska/Hawaii don’t have state lines

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

I think Alsaka is open but you may be right. I was thinking the northern canadian provinces. Hawaii like Tasmania does have a state border though.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 37

We should all be grateful to Daniel Andrews for inventing hotel quarantine, when the Commonwealth government and all other states were sleepwalking into the same honour-bar style home isolation system which has predictably failed in every single country that has used it.

Australia and New Zealand stand alone for their levels of success, and if you look at the French Pacific territories, New Caledonia is doing brilliantly with hotel quarantine while Tahiti stupidly switched several weeks ago to testing pre-arrival and on-arrival and is now predictably suffering a Coronavirus Holocaust.

Hotel quarantine works. Closed borders work. Testing pre-departure and on-arrival does not work.

Be warned though. In the medical profession we have come to realise that most of the long-haul returnees who test positive in hotel quarantine almost certainly are infected en route to the airport, at the airport or on the plane. And they would test negative both pre-arrival and on-arrival, which is precisely why the Tahiti/Hawaii model cannot work, and why there has been a late-summer Coronavirus explosion in Europe related to travel to the Mediterranean.

The irony is that in the absence of a vaccine or a treatment, Coronavirus is a Remake of the Spanish Flu pandemic. And all over again the same things work: closed borders, social distancing, cessation of travel and masks.

And just as Western Samoa and American Samoa proved 101 years ago, when you try to "open up to get the economy going" you end up with more cases and more economic ruin than when you stay closed.

The Eradication Model in WA and Queensland has their economies - and their travel industries in particular - working far better than the failed Suppression Model in NSW and VIC, which never stood a chance of working with such an infectious virus.

02 Jul 2020

Total posts 7

I'm not sure how that is working out for Dan Andrews now.

Also, Australia and New Zealand "stand alone for their level of success" ? Depends on what you call success. They cant be compared to other countries as their isolation and population density are way different to say, the UK. Where by the way, despite 3000 new cases a day the population is still travelling and returning citizens from European countries are not being shoved into hotel quarantine - the worst that can be applied is home isolation, and I'm not sure how you figure that has failed but in any case they are still using it. Only hot spots are being locked down for short periods.

Also, during the height of this pandemic we should not forget that Australia were still letting in way more people than they are now in terms of returning citizens. Removals and delivery vehicles were still moving freely from state to state with no restrictions - staying overnight, drinking coffee, eating and doing everything they would normally do. The construction industry continued as normal with crews of workers on site in all parts of the trade, every day.  Hairdressers were allowed to stay open. Several other sectors can be cited and plenty of people operated under exemptions to the quarantine restrictions - making them somehow miraculously immune. Australia's government patting themselves on the back for their "success" in reducing numbers because of their "our borders are closed, no one is moving"  approach was a bit of a fallacy. 

The numbers went up and then they went down, which is what a virus tends to do. You can't outrun the flu, I'm afraid. I think Australia tends to be a little overinflated in terms of self importance and with their small population and rather large country the outcome was far more certain for them than more populated places. The parochial  nature of the states is what has shocked me the most (it shouldn't but it has) - and the manner in which people have turned on each other for living over an imaginary line. It's bizarre. 

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 37

If anything, the Commonwealth government has got its priorities the wrong way round.

The more people who return, the more will test positive in quarantine, the more room cleaners and cooks and room service delivery people and security guards will be at risk of exposure. It only took 1 case to get out of hotel quarantine to bring Victoria to its knees - which is precisely why there can be no exemptions for funerals or dying relatives. NZ tried those exemptions: a Brisbane family went AWOL from a funeral and a pair of ex-pats from the UK drove from Auckland to Wellington and then tested positive. One compassionate exemption can destroy the whole thing.

The returnees from overseas should be managed somewhere like Christmas Island or at air bases and barracks far from a local population. That way if they infect someone at the hotel, there is no wider population for the virus to spread to.

While it's probably safer to bring the offshore refugees to the city centre hotels which are currently used for quarantine!

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 37

All of us who travel feel terrible about the people stuck overseas.

But I don't think that Morrison understands the risks of increasing the numbers returning.

07 May 2020

Total posts 38

Nouflyer....the eradication strategy is just one strategy amongst several and it is ok if you want the people involved in your community following this strategy to basically be isolated from the rest of the world. The legitimacy of just such a strategy depends upon who gets to dictate it to the community who must suffer the consequences. It seems that Desperate Dan is the one in Victoria responsible for their plight. You get what you vote for and perhaps many are not happy with the result.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 37

GoRobin

We are within 6 months of a vaccine being widely available. Now is precisely when we need to isolate as much as we can get away with because the finish line is in sight.

A few more months of isolation is what will get us through. We have 38% of the UK’s population and have had 1.6% of their number of deaths, in spite of Victoria.

Queensland has had 1 Covid death per million population.

The UK has had 636 Covid deaths per million population.

And the percentage of urban residents in Australia is higher than the UK!

07 May 2020

Total posts 38

And by the way Nouflyer....the virus is already well entrenched in Australia so you can't possibly blame the continuation of transmission in Australia on travellers returning. It is already here! Perhaps you may want to stretch your logic to the possibility that it was Adam's fault for procreating with Eve, and their offspring went out into the world, and so on, and so on, until one of their offspring got infected and spread it.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 37

Go Robin

There is precisely zero community transmission in the eradication-chasing states. Even Victoria is now heading that way. Only NSW is still playing Russian Roulette, tolerating low level community transmission without grasping that once it gets into the Aged Care homes run by the Commonwealth they will be in all sorts of trouble.

Genomics directly link every outbreak since May in every state to hotel quarantine.

That’s the madness of Morrison upping return traveller caps.

50% more returnees exposes 50% more hotel cleaners, cooks, laundry staff, waiters and security. And lifts the risk of an outbreak by 50%.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 915

GoRobin, I am not as sure as you are that it is entrenched in Australia. Most states have it under control with little if any community transmission and that is largely under control with none or less than 10 cases a day most from international travellers. Even Victoria with under 50 cases a day has it largely under control with isolated pockets in Melbourne left. The Australian economy is doing relatively well compared to others. Most countries of Europe accepts a few hundred a day as acceptable. People focus on deaths when the big issue is chronic illness that goes on for months with a huge loss in productivity.  I am under stage 2 controls: going out and about is fine just no crowds, with no more international travel for the next year or so, and limited state travel for the next six months. That is fine for me if COVID-19 is suppressed with less than 20 cases a day across the country from international travellers,  and any community transmission is isolated with localised control and if necessary a local lockdown.

07 May 2020

Total posts 38

Nouflyer....just nonsense.


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