Qantas' international 'rescue flights' are headed to Hobart

A second wave of overseas repatriation flights could make its way to Tasmania.

By David Flynn, November 7 2020
Qantas' international 'rescue flights' are headed to Hobart

Qantas plans to boost its overseas repatriation flights to bring home more Australians who remain stranded overseas, with the Boeing 787 flights landing at Hobart, where passengers will spend their 14-day quarantine at local hotels before returning to the mainland.

As with previous Qantas flights from the UK and India to Darwin, a federal government subsidy will cover the essential operating costs of fuel on these charter flights.

Passengers will pay a one-way economy fare at a flat commercial rate, as well as the cost of their hotel quarantine in Hobart.

It's reported that Tasmania's state government "still needs to confirm contracts with hotels, which would then allow the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Qantas to arrange flights from overseas to Hobart."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says more than 29,000 Australians around the world have now registered with the agency, its embassies and consulates as wanting to return to Australia.

Boosting arrivals

"We’re working every option to help as many Australians return home as quickly as possible" said Prime Minister Scott Morrison in announcing the plan in Hobart earlier today.

Morrison added that the government was liaising with other states about increasing the number of quarantine spaces available at the country's international gateways.

Victorian state premier Dan Andrews has already indicated that Melbourne Airport could reopen to international passenger flights towards the end of this month, having been closed since July following a dramatic 'second wave' surge in coronavirus cases.


Today's announcement comes as an online campaign under the #BringThemHome banner lobbies for the removal of all arrivals caps.

A group said to be "representing the thousands of people stuck around the globe due to the inability to find a guaranteed seat" due to the strict limit on arriving passengers, called on the government to "stop restricting Australian citizens and residents, as well as their family, from returning home."

Qantas will this month run five repatriation flights from London (on 7 November and 11 November) and New Delhi (on 9 November, 23 November and 27 November) to Darwin, where passengers will settle into the Howard Springs quarantine camp for the following fortnight.

The airline had also flagged its intent to launch rescue flights from Johannesburg, but has yet to provide more details.

New Zealand-Hobart flights

In related news, the federal government will invest almost $50 million in upgrading Hobart Airport's international facilities with customs and biosecurity offers, with plans to begin direct flights from New Zealand to Hobart from early 2021.

"This has been an incredibly tough year for Australians, and particularly our tourism and hospitality sectors, but the deal will mean tourists from low-risk areas can come to sample Tasmania's incredible experiences, sights and produce," Morrison said.

Morrison said the trans-Tasman flight schedule would allow for three flights per week in warmer months and two flights per week in winter, although he didn't indicate which airlines – Qantas, Virgin Australia or Air New Zealand – might take advantage of the route.


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.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1422

This works out at two flights every two weeks which nearly double the repatriation flight capacity (i.e in addition to Darwin). I reckon Canberra could puts hand at a flight a fortnight, and to that we could add places like Newcastle which don’t have any existing international flights.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 967

It’s interesting how some states are supporting the return of Australians and other states just don’t care and are keeping the numbers allowed to return down.  

KW72 Banned
KW72 Banned

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 236

What a non news story. Hotel arrangements aren’t event secured in Tasmania. Even Pakistan of all countries can organise repatriation flights quicker than Australia. The fact this fascist government is not letting people return home or edit the country is a bloody disgrace.

Time to send Scomo and Annastasia to The Hague for violation of international laws.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 967

Many times I heard Scomo on the TV telling people to come home as soon as possible “do not hesitate before it is to late”  and I know people who left Australia after those messages. I’ve got a theory why the State of Origin had low ratings and it more to do with what people think about Qld, people are saying to me they aren’t ever going back to Qld they will go NT or anywhere else but Qld.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 249

Why limit to those 2 - do you not care about hard state borders within our own country - what about WA and McGowan? The fact you identifying 2 politicians on either side of the political spectrum shows they not out of touch with the need to protect Australia from incoming virus threat from overseas. So I say get over it, if you want someone to blame, send WHO or take China to the Hague.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

23 Apr 2019

Total posts 8

Well at least you are being politically objective. But seriously, Australia pleaded with people overseas to come home back in February and March. If they didn't heed the call it is on them. 


21 Sep 2012

Total posts 3

That's not correct. In those months the Australian government messaging was "if you feel safe where you are, stay put". Australia didn't want people coming back in a wave like the one that entered the US when Trump said they were closing their borders to Europeans. That announcement from Trump provoked a wave of US citizens exiting Europe, many carrying the virus and entering the US who had not put in place any quarantine measures. 

Suddenly the Australian public was sick of paying for quarantine for returning citizens so the messaging from the Government was "they should have already come back." A complete reversal from saying stay put. I don't think anyone wanted us all to come back in those months when there was only unsupervised quarantine at home. Otherwise community spread would have taken off like wildfire. 

You say, "If they didn't heed the call it is on them." But there was never that call to come back.

Also, you don't know the life situations of people who didn't come back then, you don't know how difficult it has been for thousands who would have come back sooner if they could have. Please don't blame these people who are suffering.


09 May 2020

Total posts 566

@dmo and others

With respect I certainly do not recall that “ if you feel safe where you are, stay put". advice in Feb and March and I had been watching the DFAT closely up due to an important international trip in March.

At the time, WHO was not keen to announce it as a pandemic even though anyone can tell it’s pretty serious situation for those in China (considering they built not one but two 1000 bed hospitals in Wuhan at the end of Jan in 7 days)

There were restrictions of flights and incoming pax from China including the repatriation flights with quarantine in Xmas Island and Howard Springs in Feb.

There were multiple “do not travel” advice by early March mostly certain Asian countries but also some other countries Italy and Iran

ScoMo was doing the “be alert but not alarmed” rhetoric and saying he’s attending the Melbourne Grand Prix

The day and time this messaging changed I was literally on the plane taxiing to take off to overseas so did not get to see the dramatic change in advice. That was midday Friday the 13th March (hence easy to remember) when ScoMo announced the do not travel for all destinations.

Then NZ shut its borders within a few days of that and so did Australia. 

Then ScoMo announced the advice for all Australians to come home.

Then there’s the announcement that peoples returning from overseas to self isolate at home

All within 5 days of the dramatic change of DFAT advisory on the 13th

I changed my return dates twice paying extras to come home early, due to fast changing advice, including missing the 12 hour window between announcement and requirement to self isolate for 14 days.

Later in March the requirement becomes mandatory quarantine in hotels.

So while I am not getting into that “should have come home earlier” debate, there were significant advisory warnings in Feb and March for several countries but certainly a call to return home by mid March.

Sure, not everyone can drop everything to come home right away, but that 14 day self isolation rule pretty much says you got to take this seriously 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jun 2018

Total posts 14

Australia is in a very good position now with almost 0 community transmission cases nationally.   The risk to Australia has always been importation of the virus.  The more cities that operate these quarantine facilities the more risk that something goes wrong.  Hopefully Tasmanians are prioritised for the Hobart flights otherwise the Hobart quarantine arrivals would need a domestic flight or flights to their home state.  That creates an extra risk on that regular domestic flight with unsuspecting domestic holidaymakers as their fellow passengers.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 372

Everyone arriving in Hobart will be staying in Hobart for their quarantine period. There'll be no risk two weeks later when flying home to their home state.

09 Nov 2020

Total posts 4

I am currently in Mexico, I was due to comeback to Australia in February. 

 For some reason the Airline I was travelling with, made a change to my flight back, this ended up causing a lot of conflict to reschedule a flight, after days at their office in Mexico City, the only viable option was to get a refund and buy a new ticket, which then became an impossible task.

My parents were in Central America and their flights were also cancelled and asked to change their scheduled flight, they also had to pay $300us to make the changes, these flights were also cancelled, since then we have been looking at flights to go back to Australia with no luck.

Using airlines websites gets us nowhere, using other platforms such as farecompare, Webjet and other is of no use and misleading, I have come across flights which never left as airports were shut, my conclusion is that Airlines have been selling tickets to help their finances and offering unsuspecting buyers with credits to flight at a later date, obviously this can end up as a a very expensive excercise, and one may end up with credits with different airlines which one may never use.

To date, getting back to Oz and if being lucky to get a one way ticket with United Airlines is costing around $14,000au, this plus the $3000au for quarantine, if anything was to go wrong at an airport there would also be a charge for the so called special space assigned to wait, as it stands there are many aspects to consider before commiting to buying a ticket. 

I have been a number of times to the Australian embassy here in Mexico City which provides no assistance as it has been shut for months, and being advertised as open on the web.  Contacting by phone gets nowhere but an automated message system, which is course gets nowhere, an ad use is made to register with DFAT, however there are faults in the system, three of us have registered and once we try to log in, there are error messages preventing the log in.

I understand that it is easy to assume and comment on what one sees from a helicopter view, however if we took the time to land and live the situation, one would have a different understanding and would make more constructive comments.

I now have lost my mother due to the current situation, it was not because we chose to stay, but rather because the circumstances prevented us from travelling despite our efforts.

So please think before you comment, there is no need to live a tragedy to be a bit more understanding.

Many countries have organised repatriation flights for their citizens, Australia has left it to the end for a reason only the policy makers know, now there are flights to repatriate from Europe, Africa and Asia, nothing from America, so we are left to wait, and hope that we are still breathing until they decide to look at this part of the world.

With no right to work and after months here, savings are for many gone or almost gone, no financial assistance is available except for a $2000 loan which of course need to be paid back once we get home, I do believe this also needs to be addressed as if we were home we would be working and paying taxes or at the very least we would be on some type of benefit.

To conclude as I can possibly go on and on, I believe the Australian government can and should be doing more for its stranded citizens.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

23 Apr 2019

Total posts 8

I empathise with those who have lost relatives (you did not lose them because you were overseas though).  I totally reject the assertions made by some of you regarding Government advice back in Feb/March. I had friends in South America at the time. Rather than taking a 'she'll be right' attitude, they got themselves home quick smart. Regarding being sensitive to others in comments, I have had friends in hospitals on respirators and ECMO machines. I have had relatives in hospital for other reasons I have been unable to visit. I have been unable to attend funerals etc. But I have stuck to the rules and respected the idea that community responsibility starts with individual responsibility. So please don't bleat at me regarding your sense of entitlement to being rescued by your Government because you failed or refused to see the situation as it was.


09 May 2020

Total posts 566

Just for other readers

This is from the ABC news article dated 17 March

“ The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued advice recommending Australians abroad who wish to return home amid the COVID-19 pandemic should do so as soon as possible via commercial flights. 

 Key points:  Consular assistance to Australians overseas could be limited due to lockdowns occurring DFAT advice urges Australians who wish to return home to do so as soon as possible The advice also warns of a potentially higher chance of catching coronavirus while overseas 

The recommendation comes after the Federal Government last week urged Australians to consider whether overseas travel was necessary regardless of the destination.  DFAT is warning Australian travellers that they may not be able to return home at a later stage with more countries closing their borders due to the rapid spread of coronavirus.  Additionally, the statement warned that consular assistance could be limited due to movement restrictions during the pandemic”

And on the 18 March, DFAT prohibit travel out of Australia; this pretty much sends the signal this is serious.

“There is a ban on all overseas travel, unless granted an exemption.” on

09 Nov 2020

Total posts 4

In my case, and as I mentioned before, I acknowledge that everyone's situation is different, but as I mentioned, the circumstances for which we got stuck were out of our control, so the point about being quick and smart has no relevance, one has to live the situation to understand it. I read that there were a couple of flights sentó to South America and the USA to pick up stranded citizens, however, there were no connecting flights to those locations.

I never said that I am expecting to be picked up, what I said is that many countries have organised flights to pick up citizens, I also acknowledge that for reasons unknown to myself Australia has acted the way it has. I am not blaming or demanding to be picked up, I do not like getting into a self entitled wagon, I do believe in working and paying for what I need and do not like the idea of depending on hand outs.

What I do expect however, is to see options or at the very least some clear information to rely on, information useful to make plans and do what needs to be done to take care of the self and prepare for future options.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 967


I feel sorry for anyone trapped overseas, in March I booked a flight for my daughter and husband to come home the same day, they didn't want to come home and considered it an easy fix to come home when ever they wanted too. 48 hours later there were no flight and they would have been stuck overseas. They now consider themselves lucky they got home.

09 Nov 2020

Total posts 4


Thanks for your comment.

I do agree they should consider themselves lucky, and please don't get me wrong, I do enjoy being on this side of the world, just not in the current circumstances.

We were here before the advise was made, it is not like we decided to travel out of Australia at a later time, and the difficulty of cancelled flights and being unable to reschedule for us in this situation.I am not blaming anyone, I do believe lots of what is happening and the actions being take by many countries I see as reactions to what is being presented, not much has or possibly could have been planned. 

We have been trying to get onto flights for a long rime, and of course relied on bookings we already had. however flights have been cancelled, and many of those flights being sold, or advertised do not even exist, airlines are unable to give clear directions and unfortunately the embassy is shut, we are left with a keep trying advise, which we have and continue to.

In the case of Qantas, I kept informed as to when they would fly, as this continued to change from one month to the next until eventually at some.point in time it was more than a next month option, of course we had to rely on the information being given by airlines and continue to wait, now we know that it will be a very long time till they fly to this side of the world.

I don't know how many people are stuck in Latin America, and I know it may not be an easy excercise to send a plane to pick up people from various countries at a time, but it would be good if at all possible to arrange for a plane to pick people up from various countries at a time, this would take care of the inhability many of us have to get to a particular airport to catch a Qantas flight.

As an example, I have been informed here at the airport in Mexico City that Air Canada is flying to I believe Brisbane, the flight goes out from Vancouver, however, Air Canada is unable to take me as they do not flight direct to Vancouver, and people on repatriation flights are only allowed to flight on direct connections, so this possibility isn't at all possible, excuse the redundancy.

I could go on mentioning other ways we have tried, and the many different outcomes but will bore you.

I only like to point out, that like they continue to say, this are difficult, different times and situations, thousands and thousands of people are stuck all over the world from many different countries, not by choice but rather because current situations have hindered efforts.

It is a testing time, and of course learning time, I welcome options, ideas even when the may not get us anywhere, at least we try. Is time to be part of the solution, not the problem.


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