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.
"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.