Qantas to launch rescue flights from London, India, South Africa

New Boeing 787-9 flights will land at Darwin's RAAF Base, with passengers spending their 14-day quarantine in the NT capital.

By David Flynn, October 16 2020
Qantas to launch rescue flights from London, India, South Africa

Qantas plans to restart international flights under a government plan to bring home more of the estimated 25,000 Australians who remain stranded overseas – with some of the special repatriation flights landing at Darwin, which would become a dedicated quarantine hub for arriving passengers.

London and New Delhi are the first destinations for the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which will land at Darwin's RAAF Base. Travellers will then be taken to Howard Springs – a former worker's camp located 25km south of Darwin – to begin their mandatory 14-day stay.

Howard Springs was previously used to house Australians who were evacuated from Wuhan in the early stages of the pandemic, and also for passengers stranded on the Diamond Princess cruise ship after it docked in Japan.

A government subsidy will cover the essential operating costs of fuel on these charter flights, while Qantas says that "all pilots and cabin crew working on these flights have volunteered for them."

Three Qantas flights from London will depart on 22 October, 7 November and 11 November, with one-way economy fares at $2,150 per person (excluding taxes, which lift the fare to $2,560).

Travel on the legs from Sydney and Perth to London – with departures on 19 October, 4 November and 8 November – will also be available at commercial rates and can be booked through Qantas.

Four Qantas flights from New Delhi will depart on 26 October, 9 November, 23 November and 27 November, at one-way economy fares of $1,500 per person.

Passengers will also need to pay for their 14-day quarantine, which at Howard Springs is currently set at $2,500 per person and $5,000 for families of two or more. Travellers in financial hardship will be offered government loans.

There'll also be one Qantas repatriation flight from Johannesburg to Australia, which will be priced at $1,750 – the airline says the date of this flight is "to be advised" and its arrival port "is being worked through", while "additional flights to other destinations may be announced in due course."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will contact Australians in vulnerable positions who have registered with the department in the United Kingdom, South Africa and India.

Qantas will carry 150 passengers on each flight; the airline says all passengers must undergo a Covid-19 tested at least 48 hours prior to departure "and must test negative in order to board the aircraft", as well as wearing a mask throughout the flight.

Crew will have additional protections including personal protective equipment, in-flight service will be scaled back, and there will be ‘crew only’ areas at the front and back of the aircraft.

Qantas operated more than a hundred government-supported flights across April-June 2020 under the same arrangement, with special charter services from India, Japan, Hawaii, South America and South Africa alongside regular flights from Auckland, Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today that the Howard Springs quarantine facility would be operational until at least March 2021, and would addd "around 5,000 people over that time" to the number of inbound travellers which Australia can accept.

Morrison also said the government's medical expert panel was "considering options for home isolation".

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 774

I get that a 787 can do LHR-DRW non-stop but from a pax numbers point of view it is pretty inefficient with only 236 seats compared with 297 on a A330-300.  For the Indian flights, you'd think the A330 is a much better option given it is well within range.  For the LHR flights, a stop in Middle East of India would be required if the A330s were used.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 155

The quarantine facility can only handle 200 people at a time anyhow, so no need for larger aircraft.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1259

Im not sure this is correct. I understand the facility is larger than this and given they want to bring 1000 people home through here a month (at least what I've seen), that indicates it will take 500 or so at any one time.

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 9

Howard Springs has 3500 beds. When I stayed in early August, there were about 800 fellow guests. It has the space and staff to handle far more than 200. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Apr 2014

Total posts 8

Hi Nalanji, I would love to hear more of your experience staying in Howard Spring, the good, the bad? As an Aussie living in London I’m happy this option will give relief to a few people needing to get home. 

11 Jul 2020

Total posts 52

About time the Federal government got on bring Aussies home. Let's hope all overseas Aussies that wish to return home are back home before Christmas.

18 Sep 2020

Total posts 4

If its true the darwin facility can only handle 200 people then that results in 1 flight every 2 weeks. How good is that? 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Carry it is 1000 a month or 500 per two week block so it is two flights every two weeks probably one from India and one from the UK

15 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

I suppose we will have to endure all the accolades given to Qantas again as if it were doing this as some selfless, benevolent act. They dont do nothing for free. A number of other carriers have flown regular "rescue" flights throughout. With 30pax onboard inbound due to the ridiculous restrictions placed on them by a government that claims to understand commercial reality. No accolades for them. And what about the other 193 countries in the world. Too bad if your an Aussie whose stuck in any of those countries. This is far from a satisfactory rescue plan from our government. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2014

Total posts 36

Try China when you got 300k stuck in the US wanting to go back but so far only managed to carry 30k (over 6 months) due to ridiculous CAAC restrictions

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

Qantas is the only Australian carrier that flies international so isn't it pretty obvious why they have been chosen to do the flights. Do you expect the government to pay a foreign airline, that's really smart of you!  I guess you expect them to do it for free also. I think airlines in the world are losing enough money let alone flying them for free. The other carriers you mentioned flying rescue flights are also subsidised heavily by there governments otherwise they wouldn't be flying. You really have no idea what your talking about.

cogman

aren't virgin still doing some freight runs, with very few or zero passengers ?

& what about Jetstar ? Surely they would be cheaper than qantas ?

A Jetstar A321Neo can carry up to something like 232 passengers maximum & could surely do India in 1 stop ?

or Jetstar 787 ?

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

regular flyer

I believe virgin is done doing international freight runs as they will be returning the 777's and a330's.

Not exactly sure why they wouldn't use Jetstar but I think it has to do with legalities and things such as operating permits for places like India and some countries to where they have never operated. Qantas has these.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 208

cgoman, passing the buck to foreign carriers is exactly what Qantas has been doing. THAI Airways, Emirates and the Spanish carrier Iberian, as well as SWISS if I'm not mistaken have all carried passengers from Bangkok to Australia since early April. Normally Qantas flies to Bangkok from Sydney on a daily basis but for some bizarre reason has refused to fly repatriation flights to pick up the surely many Australian passengers stuck in Thailand who want to come home. Australia's embassy in Bangkok is normally one of the busiest in the world, instead they've chosen to fly to Delhi, which surely has fewer Aussies than Bangkok. Everyone knows how popular Thailand is with Aussies, yet Qantas has taken a totally bizarre stance since it stopped flying in late March.

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

TheFreqFlyer, that's laughable! Qantas has never refused to fly repatriation flights. SWISS and Iberian flew flights for there citizens and some other Europeans. Emirates is still flying daily but flights are capped. You can't make money on capped flights. I guess you expect QF to operate flights that lose money!

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 208

And yet it has. THAI Airways has been transporting a significant number of Australians back home, while picking up Thais on the way back. Many Aussies in Thailand have been complaining about the appalling treatment they've received from the Australian embassy which simply tells them: "fly Qatar". Surely Qantas could fly to Bangkok, rather than prostrating itself for Singapore and Delhi.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Nov 2011

Total posts 186

Yeah I think you need to check your facts about how the other airlines are managing to stay flying.  The are completely supported and backed up by their respective governments and their operations are subsidised.  Were Qantas to continue running ghost flights they would loose more money than they currently are.  As we have seen from many an example the Australian Government expect companies like Qantas to troubleshoot thier own finances. Hence, no international flights whilst a) Australians cannot leave and b) foreigners cannot enter.  The only market for them currently is repatriation.

drt

plenty of freight demand & we no or very few passengers, there's a lot of room in the belly & some passenger aircraft are carrying freight upstairs in passenger compartment, in boxes on seats.

17 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

I agree with Deepspa. What are about the other countries in the world. There is still many people stuck in a few countries in South America. When do they get to come back home? 

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 114

One flight every two weeks from the look of things. And another case of more corporate welfare wasted by the government.

All on the same day Hong Kong and Singapore announced opening a travel bubble. 

How good is the Australian government!

This is beyond ridiculous...    Let's impose an arbitrary cap on commercial pax movement, so that only roughly 35 people can be on any flight into Sydney, (less to other centres).  As a result of these caps, airlines that are operating into AU such as EK and QR have had to price tickets in the $10,000+ range, with the high price and the fact that the volume of pax needs to be so low thus leaving the overseas Aussies "stranded". 

Government then goes - "GREAT IDEA! Let's charter a few QF planes and take people to Darwin!"  -  Wrong answer!! Correct answer is to raise the caps. There is so much available hotel space in Sydney, Canberra, Gold Coast, and many more cities.

The current cap is just a number plucked out of the air - not a function of any hard limits on the number of people we can quarantine using the effective system the way NSW has been doing it. I can't believe the incompetence. Also - why subsidise QF on this - they have been totally MIA in these past months, not deserving of govt subsidises.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 171

NSW is taking 2 or 3K pax per week (more than 60% of Australia wide intake), VIC none, but most other states are taking less than 1000, QLD until a few weeks ago was taking only 500 per week. 

There is no doubt who is doing the heavy lifting, and the rest of Australia simply there for the ride.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 114

Correct. NSW doing the heavy lifting, as always. 

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 171

KW72

I fell out of my chair last month when they revealed which states is taking how many. Certainly nothing lilke the proportion of international visitors by states. 

It’s easy to keep the borders closed and low/no international intake, which is by far how COVID got reintroduced in several “clean” nations.

The 14 days quarantine is not perfect and a few people who are released after 14 days do get positive within the 7 days of release.

the restrictions on numbers are federal I think.

CNS is crying out for pax to fill up it's near empty hotels.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1259

@Auskiwiflyer - whilst I agree with the premise that the government should do more to get people home, your argument is somewhat misguided.

The federal government has set a cap on total capacity into Australia. States have then imposed a cap on how many people they will accept and indeed sometimes on each flight. So while you praise the NSW government, they have also imposed cap. 

There should be more federal discussions with states about other entry ports, but this requires state agreement. But as you have mentioned there are other options.

As for Qantas... It's not like they are making a profit off this and the alternative is to charter foreign airlines. Given we have a number of people looking for work in Australia, it is probably preferable to pay Australians to work, who may spend it here.

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

Talk about ridiculous Auskiwiflyer! Sure there are plenty of hotel rooms but you need people to guard them who know what they are doing. Look at Victoria. You really have no idea. There are also many other reasons for the cap. Yes, the cap probably should be raised some.

Why shouldn't they subsidise QF? They aren't going to make money on the flight, do you expect them to do it for a loss! You say they have been MIA, of course they have as there is no passenger traffic. You yourself have said 35 people on an inbound flight and virtually nobody allowed to leave. Wake up to yourself and your silly comments.

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 61

The point he is making - since the caps were introduced there have been thousands of empty seats per week coming in to Australia on commercial flights. There is no need to waste tax dollars on special QF flights. Just raise the caps. Not enough people to staff quarantine hotels? Hard to believe - look how many people out there are stood down/laid off that could be trained very quickly for this purpose. 

12 Oct 2017

Total posts 6

I am currently in hotel quarantine in Sydney it’s quite laughable to suggest that the guy “guarding” me outside my room does more than just wander up and down the hotel corridor looking at his phone, or that he has any special kind of training. We are told to stay in our rooms or we’ll cop a $1000 fine, so we stay in our rooms. Surely this “system” can be easily replicated in at least 10 other cities around the country giving much needed revenue to hotels in regional areas and getting people home sooner; Gold Coast, Cairns, Hobart, Canberra, Alice Springs any of these would work if we just think outside the box! Pretty easy for a Dreamliner to land in Darwin, process everyone and then fly on to any one of these cities... 

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 171

Let’s hope the pax will not complain about the facilities in Howard Springs (which they have to pay for) considering those pax who complained at 5-star hotels they have to pay for (we only heard of one which resulted in mass checkout to another hotel, but there is plenty of reports about complaints in other hotels  as well).

Interesting that Qantas was chosen to fly these rescue flights even though there was other charter services already offering this service, at least one based overseas, so doesn’t involve flying Australians crew out of Australia (and the costs involved with the return trip); despite the flag waving by getting an Aussie service, it probably costs far more than overseas provider

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

XWu they fill have two crew on each flight one for coming and one for going for India and they may use their UK crews for UK flights with the Aussie crew having two weeks quarantine while they wait for their next flight. They will love that.

The potential returnees know what is being offered, both transport and quarantine accommodation. It's their decision.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 43

Plenty of missing information about the accommodation. Mainly, do single people have to double up with someone else? Are the bathrooms shared? Coming from a place that hasn't had any community transmission for many weeks (yes, they do exist), I certainly wouldn't want to share anything with a stranger.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 208

Why wouldn't they complain? I've heard (and seen videos) of passengers arriving in Thailand and being served almost inedible meals at their hotels. This is particularly true of Thai returnees, whom the government subsidises the cost for.

18 Sep 2020

Total posts 4

ABC is reporting Qantas is running 8 flights total at 300 pax per flight. Facility will take 1000 per month. So Qantas itself is moving max 2500 pax, one tenth of the 25000 pax registered to return, but we all know the true number is higher than that. So under present conditions it will take more than 2 years to fly in the returnees. By the time the last returnees get here the pandemic could well be finished

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 171

If there is 300 pax per flight they sure aren’t using the 787 (of any configuration) as suggested in this ET article.

Only A330-300 and A380 can fit 300 people, and the A380 is being stored

Ironically if A330-300 is used you can be sure the plane is packed like sardines including J class so much for any hope of physical distancing for the  long flight esp from London. 

Even if using 787-9 carrying 200 pax as suggested by this ET article, there is little chance for physical distancing either

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

XWu the article says 150 per flight and passengers have to wear masks throughout the flight.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Carry the article says 150 per flight so that will be three flights every two weeks. Two from UK and one from India.

cgoman the way it reads is QF will be charging $2,000 ONE WAY per pax from LHR which is higher than a normal fare and then on top of that the govt ..."will cover the essential operating costs of fuel and the salaries of pilots and cabin crew" 

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1259

@auskiwiflyer - we don't have all the details, but generally looking at past examples indicates the government underwrites the cost of the flight and has a role in the pricing of the flight. Revenue obtained offsets cost to run flight. If flight runs at loss, the difference is picked up. 

While big costs, there are more costs to airlines than pilots and fuel. Noting 200 seats x $2k is $400,000. This is not a huge sum.

While 2k may seem a lot, even in normal times, one way international fares are not priced enticingly and it would be rare they fall in discount fare buckets.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 171

Even accounting for cost of hotel quarantine plus 14 days worth of pay (lost ‘potential’ earning) during quarantine for the crew plus danger money load won’t exactly account for the nonprofit aspect of the claim either at 400k flight charge for a 200 pax load.

Not that I don’t want Aussies crew to work but if operational costs is ever a consideration, charter planes is an option. From memory private charter planes Delhi to Perth charged $2.3k pp during the height of pandemic lockdown in both India and Australia meaning if at 200 pax per plane, it costs 260k to the government after deducting 1k contribution from each pax.

Someone once calculated Qantas operating costs for Sydney to Denpasar one way for A330 is 52K, and Delhi to Perth is roughly double that distance hence 104k

Considering it’s going to be least the cost of return flight plus cost of positioning the crew and plane to Delhi in the first place, and the obligatory 30% loading for the pain of dealing with Australian govt and 1001 compliance checks (some readers may identify with that) then 260k operating cost cover for a private charter may not be too much.

I am not sure if Qantas will charge the government 260k for a retrieval flight DEL-PER. 

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 171

BTW 

Reference

Google “The Cost of Operating a Flight”

Also Aircraft trip cost parameters: A function of stage length and seat capacity”, published in  Transportation Research

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

Auskiwiflyer, don't forget the plane will fly over empty except for the crew. When they return it will be to Darwin. Crew will have to then stay there before returning to there homes in Syd, Mel or wherever there from. It also doesn't mention if they are selling business class or premium economy which is where the big revenue comes from. There is no way QF will make money on the flight.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Cgoman they won’t be flying over empty qantas have dates and seats to sell.

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

patrickk, sorry you are correct, they will be selling seats both ways. Don't think there will be many leaving Australia though as you need government permission to leave.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

There is no shortage of non Australians wanting to travel and border force are easing restrictions so I’m sure they will be full.

cgoman, don't be ridiculous. Qantas have never been a charity.

They can carry lots of freight outbound in belly + have seen many passenger aircraft, carrying freight in seats.

AUD$2k one way will easily pay for the round trip & freight is a bonus + qantas will put a spin on it, saying what a great job they are doing & getting so PR mileage.

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

regular flyer, you obviously have no idea what you're talking about. $2000 one way will not pay for flight. Also the current rate for freight has dropped dramatically since covid first started. you can make money from freight but not that much. I never said QF was a charity, don't know where you got that from.

$2000 x 2 ways X 200 passengers - if you can't make money at these prices, should give it away.

Freight demand went through the roof, ex China at start of Corona, with mostly PPE.

Heard some yanks bought $100m worth of PPE in China, but couldn't get it to SFO (they thought only U.S. airlines could do it)

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2016

Total posts 12

I flew back into Sydney last week from Paris via Abu Dhabi on Etihad, we only had 15 pax on board, surely they should let the airlines carry a few more pax

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

The dates have been published and tickets are open for outgoing flights as well. Probably less PPE etc. and maybe more food.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 114

What is the guarantee these flights will actually operate?

Tasman bubble started today, and Qantas initially promised 6 flights per week to Auckland and 4 to Christchurch. Before first flight, Christchurch has been cancelled and Auckland will only be 2 flights per week.

Buyer beware. 

12 Aug 2020

Total posts 11

The bubble is only one way until after NZ election. Then they will think about it. It's like Queensland - they won't do anything to be blamed for a new case.  The federal Govt is going the same way with talking of banning other o/s travel entirely in 2021. They must be joking with a realistic chance of a working vaccine by end 2020. 

12 Aug 2020

Total posts 11

It's terrible that Australians cannot be trusted to stay at home for 14 days. Many people have their own home and do not live with others. It would be far better for everyone if they were permitted to go to their own home - report in or wear a tag on wrist and just get on with life. This is rather barbaric and overly tough - especially on older people 

05 May 2016

Total posts 587

This extra amount helps but if the government is serious about getting everyone who wants to come home, home for Christmas they need to increase the caps that can fly into the various states significantly.

If they are not charging enough to cover the costs they should increase the charges so they can put any extra needed staff on.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 43

A;ready people in Canada will not be home for Christmas. First flight out has been moved to 10 Dec. That's arriving 12 Dec, hotel quarantine ends 26 (27?) Dec. Wow - spending Christmas Day alone in hotel quarantine - can't wait. (That flight is going to be cancelled anyway. It sold out in less than 48 hours, and obviously 300 people can't fly.)

02 Jul 2020

Total posts 3

OMG that's pushing it - I have a flight booked with Air Canada for 15 December from Dublin to Sydney...yay Christmas in Quarantine!!! TBH I'll just be happy to be on home soil. Praying it won't be cancelled :(

As a non-Australian, the piece I find incredible is that Australians accept these arrival caps on citizens. I don't think our government would legally be able to keep citizens out. Quarantine yes but not caps. 

07 Jan 2016

Total posts 29

The caps reflect the current capacity of Quarantine facilities, Paul.  You can't lift one without the other, unless you are willing to reduce your Quarantine period.

18 Sep 2020

Total posts 4

Why are people arguing about the technicalities? Surely the point is the virtual locking out of Australians from their own country. There are an underestimated 29000 expats wanting to return. This new scheme allows just 5000 to return in 6 months. In what world is this acceptable? And why do Australians find this reasonable? In Germany the courts won't even allow the govt to close restaurants. In australia you cant sit alone on a park bench and eat a falafel. Something is wrong here, very wrong

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 114

It is scary how Australians so quickly were happy to accept totalitarian behaviour from many parts of the government. Although one should not be surprised given how far behind Australia is compared to other comparable democracies (no bill of rights, terrible internet speeds, slow to the party on same sex marriage etc.)

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

KW72 and to your list we could add negligible COVID-19 infections.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Darry have you looked at COVID infections in Germany this last week. Something is terribly wrong with the German court system to allow the bug to get away. Be careful for what you wish for...a hospital system so completely overwhelmed you can’t get treated.

07 Jan 2016

Total posts 29

The majority of Australians find it acceptable as these measures are working to keep COVID-19 under control in Australia.  You use Germany as an example of a more reasonable approach.  Germany is currently racking up more than 6000 cases per day (and numbers are increasing exponentially). 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2416

Several comments which are off-topic – that is, not directly related to this home isolation proposal – have been removed, including several comments purely on politics and Covid-19 without direct relevance to the article. Readers are reminded to keep their comments under articles on the topic of that article.


18 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

Can anyone suggest how to make bookingfrom India to Australia Qantas flight for my wife& baby kindly suggests. Becoz in wants website it’s shows nothing on that date.

Thanks 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1029

Karthek check with the Australian high commission in Delhi as they will be organising it or will know who is. DFAT are looking after it.

GAG
GAG

19 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

Just to point out the financials here. The AU Gov has said they will cover fuel costs of these repatriation flights. Varibale costs are minimal for a flight - food, airport costs, crew etc. Aircarft lease costs are QF responsibility anyway, if the aircraft flies or not. Customers are being charged AUD2k from LHR, thats AUD400k for each flight, and remember fuel is paid for by the AU Gov, that means us as tax payers.

Why?

As a tax payer the cheapest solution is to increase the cap on existing flights and let QF decide if it wants to fly on its own comemrcial standing. If more capacity is needed, do the simple thing and increase the caps, dont invent a solution that gives QF cash when there are commercially viable opotions that dont result in taxpayers funding peoples return to Australia. There are plenty of flights right now operating into AU, but they are not allowed to fill even 20% of their capacity. This whole thing is a backdoor subsidy of QF by us taxpaying public. Raise the caps ScoMo.


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