Emirates has suspended flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane "until further notice" following a drastic reduction in the number of international passengers allowed to arrive in Australia.
The airline's last flights to and from those cities are as follows:
- Dubai-Brisbane (EK430), January 16
- Brisbane-Dubai (EK431), January 17
- Dubai-Sydney (EK414), January 18
- Sydney-Dubai (EK415), January 19
- Dubai-Melbourne (EK408), January 19
- Melbourne-Dubai (EK409), January 20
However, the Gulf airline and Qantas partner is continuing its twice-weekly flights between Dubai and Perth.
Emirates cited "operational reasons" for the sudden cancellations.
The airline's website advises that "customers holding tickets with final destinations Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin after the completion of the above flights. Affected customers should contact their travel agent or Emirates contact centre for rebooking options."
"Australia remains an important market for Emirates," a spokesperson for the airline told Executive Traveller.
"We continue to serve Perth with twice-weekly flights and we are working hard to prepare for resumption of services to our other points.”
Another setback for stranded Aussies
The airline's decision represents a further setback for many of the 37,000 Australians overseas currently registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as wanting to return home.
Emirates has to date brought a steady flow of Australians home from overseas via its Dubai hub, with daily flights to Sydney and Melbourne, and five flights a week to Brisbane.
However, even under the previous cap of around 7,500 arrivals per week across all Australian airports, many airlines have been limited to between 30-50 passengers per flight, making the flights financially unviable.
As of January 15 the maximum number of weekly international arrivals was slashed to less than 5,000 "to manage the flow of returning Australians and other travellers who have been potentially exposed to the new variants" of coronavirus, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have each halved their weekly arrivals limit to a total of 2,517 passengers per week. South Australia remains pegged at 490, while Victoria continues to operate at less than half of its capacity, with some 1,120 arrivals per week.
Although Emirates' move has sparked concerns that other airlines could also cut their flights to Australia, the absence of the Gulf carrier will also allow those airlines which continue to operate to carry more passengers on an average weekly basis.
Executive Traveller understands that the government is planning another round of subsidised flights from the UK, the USA and India over the coming weeks.