Qantas and Virgin Australia will mount a series of repatriation flights to London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Auckland as part of the Federal Government's push to bring home Australians who remain stranded overseas.
The special flights will run across April, starting from the end of this coming week, with 13 flights each week. Passengers can book onto the flights leaving Australia or the return leg, with airfares fixed at a flat rate for every seat.
The Government is subsidising the cost of fuel and crew; below decks, the aircraft will be loaded up with outbound cargo to assist the Australian export market, with imported freight and medical supplies on the return leg.
Qantas coronavirus repatriation flights
Qantas will run ten flights each week, each on a Boeing 787-9, which can be booked only through Qantas.
- Melbourne-London-Melbourne (via Perth, although no passengers will be allowed to leave the plane at Perth) and Brisbane-Los Angeles-Brisbane will be weekly
- Brisbane-Hong Kong-Brisbane and Melbourne-Hong Kong-Melbourne will run twice a week
- Brisbane-Auckland-Brisbane and Melbourne-Auckland-Melbourne will run twice a week
All passengers will pay the same fare but won't be able to specifically book into a specific cabin such as business class or premium economy, with a basic meal service provided.
No frequent flyer points or status credits will be issued, and due to cost-saving measures there's no inflight entertainment.
Virgin Australia coronavirus repatriation flights
Virgin Australia will run three flights each week, each on a Boeing 777-300ER and bookable only through Virgin Australia.
- Brisbane-Hong Kong-Brisbane will be twice a week
- Brisbane-Los Angeles-Brisbane will be once a week
“Many Australians will be able to get to one of these four destinations. They can do so knowing there will be an Australian airline to get them home,” says Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, whose office led the initiative after Qantas and Virgin wound down all international flights last week.
“Where there are no commercial options available, the Government will consider supporting, on a case-by-case basis, non-scheduled services to other overseas destinations."
“We are continuing our constructive discussions with Qantas and Virgin on flights to less accessible destinations, including South America and the Pacific," Payne added.
Qantas has also been in discussions with the UK Government about flights to London, which were suspended last week following a brief re-routing from the long-standing Singapore stopover to Darwin.
“We are liaising with Qantas to keep flights operational” noted Vicki Treadell, British High Commissioner to Australia, in an email sent on March 29 to British travellers still in Australia.
“We are working tirelessly with airlines to ensure planes keep flying, as well as with the Australian Government and international partners to keep commercial routes to the UK open.”