As countries continue to lock down their borders or restrict transit travellers as the coronavirus crisis escalates, it's becoming increasingly difficult for Australians who are still overseas to return home – and for visitors in Australia to do likewise.
This list is accurate as of 22 April 2020 but of course subject to change, so always contact your airline to confirm things like reservations, flight times or transit arrangements.
We've included contact details for all airlines listed, but you may also wish to consider a travel agent – just be sure you're aware of any charges or conditions in the event of necessary changes to the booking. Even if an airline is able to issue a full refund, some agents may charge their own fees on top to cover for their work and lost commission.
Qantas will run ten government-supported return flights each week, each on a Boeing 787-9, which can be booked only through Qantas.
- Melbourne-Perth-London (no passengers will be allowed to leave the plane at Perth) and Brisbane-Los Angeles will be weekly
- Brisbane-Hong Kong and Melbourne-Hong Kong will run twice a week
- Brisbane-Auckland and Melbourne-Auckland will run twice a week
Fares are fixed and only available in economy class. However, onboard catering is limited and in-flight entertainment is switched off.
In addition to the above, the airline will also mount additional rescue charter flights to and from other destinations when arranged with the relevant authorities.
Most Virgin Australia international flights are already suspended until 14 June. However, special repatriation flights are also running with the government's support.
Virgin Australia will run three return flights each week, each on a Boeing 777-300ER and bookable only through Virgin Australia.
- Brisbane-Hong Kong will be twice a week
- Brisbane-Los Angeles will be once a week
Many of the airline's domestic flights will also be grounded from this weekend as interstate travel restrictions deter domestic travel.
The airline's Australian routes were already paused until the end of April. However, this has now been extended to the end of May.
Air Canada's Vancouver-Sydney (AC33) and Vancouver-Brisbane (AC35) flights will recommence on 1 June 2020, while the seasonal Vancouver-Melbourne (AC37) isn't slated to resume until the end of November 2020.
Canada currently allows transit passengers to connect between international flights, such as from Europe to Australia, provided they don't show any symptoms of COVID-19, don't leave the airport, have a confirmed onward flight and have either a visa or an Electronic Travel Authority, which can be requested online.
Air New Zealand
Most trans-Tasman flights aboard Air New Zealand are suspended until at least June 30 2020, with the few that remain all departing from Auckland – at least until the end of May.
Sydney gets three flights from Auckland per week (NZ103), while Melbourne (NZ123) and Brisbane (NZ145) get two return flights each during this period.
All other routes to Australia, including those from Auckland to Perth and Adelaide, are currently suspended.
The Qantas partner is winding down services to both Brisbane and Cairns non-stop from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. This is projected to last until the end of April, with the schedule restarting after 1 May 2020.
Port Moresby-Sydney flights remain off the schedule for the foreseeable future.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
ANA's NH879/NH880 flight between Sydney and Tokyo continue to run three times a week, although with the Perth-Tokyo route (NH881 and NH882) suspended until at least June 1, West Australians trying to get home from Japan might need to go via Sydney.
The introduction of a second daily flight between Sydney and Tokyo Haneda is pushed back until at least June 1.
International transits remain possible via Japan, although restrictions apply to those who've recently visited higher-risk destinations.
Bookings and enquiries: Access the ANA website, call 1800 081 765 within Australia or +81 3 4332 6871 from overseas. ANA does not process new bookings or flight changes via its email and online chat services.
Cancellations are also affecting flights from London to Hong Kong from April 7.
With the airline soon to cut capacity by a staggering 96%, flights from Hong Kong to Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth all stand suspended until early June 2020.
Flights to and from Sydney (CX100/CX101) will continue during this period, but are pared back to just three return services per week: a far cry from the four return flights per day Cathay Pacific was operating until the coronavirus crisis unfolded.
While Cathay is also operating flights to Hong Kong from a small number of other cities, Hong Kong itself is now closed to foreigners, who can't even transit airside at Hong Kong International Airport.
Taiwan's China Airlines is continuing with some flights between Taipei and Australia for the time being, although some routes are suspended.
Taipei to Sydney (CI51), Brisbane (CI53) and Melbourne (CI57) will see scattered flights during the rest of April, before the schedule normalises in May.
International transits are not currently possible via Taiwan.
Garuda will continue flying to Australia for the time being, serving Jakarta-Sydney (GA712) and Denpasar (Bali) to Perth four times weekly (GA728) around once a week during April.
Other routes like Bali to Sydney and Melbourne, and Jakarta to Perth and Melbourne, are paused.
Transits via Indonesia are tricky right now as entry into Indonesia requires a pre-arranged visa, and travel is prohibited to those who've recently visited France, Germany, Holy See (Vatican), Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.
Flights from Tokyo to Melbourne and now Tokyo-Sydney are both suspended until at least June 2020.
Unlike other key transit hubs like Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Japan does not currently have a blanket ban on transit travellers, but does apply some restrictions for those travelling from high-risk countries such as China. Competing airline ANA is still flying from Tokyo to Sydney at the time of writing.
Struggling to get home from South America? LATAM's Santiago-Auckland-Sydney flights (LA801) and direct Santiago-Sydney flight (LA803) are suspended through to the end of April. The normal schedule is currently set to resume after 1 May 2020.
Although New Zealand has enacted tough new border restrictions blocking entry to all visitors, Australians can still transit Auckland when connecting onwards to Australia aboard LA801.
LATAM's flights to Melbourne, however, are currently suspended.
Transit through Santiago Airport remains possible from other destinations.
Despite Malaysia's national airline previously pausing all flights to Australia, it is now reinstating limited rescue flights over the next two months, from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
|Route||Flight||April departures||May departures|
Kuala Lumpur to Sydney
Sydney to Kuala Lumpur
|MH123||April 2, 7, 9, 14, 16, 21, 28||May 5, 12|
|MH122||April 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 29||May 6, 13|
Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne
Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur
|MH149||April 1, 4, 8, 11, 15, 22, 29||May 6, 13|
|MH148||April 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 23, 30||May 7, 14|
Kuala Lumpur to Perth
Perth to Kuala Lumpur
|MH126||April 6, 13, 20, 27||May 4, 11|
|MH127||April 6, 13, 20, 27||May 4, 11|
Qatar Airways continues to serve Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, including throughout April and May, although flights to Adelaide and Canberra are paused. The airline is also introducing non-stop flights from Doha to Brisbane and ramping up flights to other Australian cities over the coming weeks.
Passengers arriving at Qatar Airways' Hamad International Airport hub can still change to and from connecting flights, as long as they don't leave the airport, as Qatar has closed its borders to foreigners. If you see reference to 'transit visas' being withdrawn, note that these apply to short-stay visitors to Doha, not to transit passengers who remain 'airside' within the terminal.
Those with a longer transit time may be eligible for a complimentary stay at the Oryx Airport Hotel located in the international departures area, which also accepts paid reservations.
Bookings and enquiries: Visit the Qatar Airways website and use the promo code TRAVELHOME to receive up to 10% off a one-way booking (book by 15 April 2020, for travel until 15 April 2020); or call 1300 340 600 or 02 9165 4313 within Australia or +974 4023 0000 from abroad; or try Facebook and Twitter.
Brunei's national airline continues to serve Melbourne throughout April with two return flights each week from its Bandar Seri Begawan hub.
However, flights to Brisbane are currently suspended, as are the airline's flights from London.
International transits through Brunei, as well as entry into Brunei, are both suspended for foreign nationals.
With government restrictions affecting both transit travel and entry into Singapore, the nation's home carrier Singapore Airlines previously paused all of its flights to Australia for the time being. However, the carrier is now operating limited flights between Sydney and Singapore during April.
|Route||Flight||Operating dates (April)|
|Singapore to Sydney||SQ211||3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, 28|
|Sydney to Singapore||SQ232||4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 25, 27, 29|
It's vital to be aware that travellers are not allowed to transit at Singapore's Changi Airport: if you're currently booked on a trip that involves changing between flights at Changi, you will not be allowed to board that initial flight to Singapore.
Thai Airways have cancelled all flights to Australia until at least July 1.
Be aware that Thailand currently has strict requirements in place for transit travellers, requiring both a medical certificate indicating a negative test result for COVID-19 and evidence of a valid insurance policy covering at least USD$100,000 in COVID-19 care in Thailand.
United Airlines has suspended all flights between Australia and the USA with one exception: the daily San Francisco-Sydney service, which is UA863 from San Francisco and UA870 from Sydney.
Australians can still enter the United States for the purpose of airport transit (subject to the usual ESTA/visa rules), however, entry will be denied for those who've recently visited China, the European Schengen Area, Iran, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
Tips for travelling last-minute
With fewer flights available than normal – and many of those remaining flights full with people returning home – planning your own journey may require lots of flexibility.
You may need to consider different departure dates, different routes and even a combination of airlines to get you back to your home city.
For example, if you're trying to return from Europe to Adelaide – where most airlines have paused international flights – you may first need to fly via somewhere like Doha which continues to welcome transit passengers, then into another Australian city like Sydney, Melbourne or Perth.
After 11:59pm on Saturday March 28, you'll then be required to remain in quarantine at a designated hotel for 14 days as directed by the government, before you can continue home (including onto a connecting domestic flight).
Also be mindful that only Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members are now permitted entry into Australia.
Additional reporting by Brandon Loo.