Photo Shows Sad State Of First Retired Air France Airbus A380

A photo circulating on Twitter shows the sad fate of the first Airbus A380 to be retired from the Air France fleet. In February, the aircraft was flown to Knock Airport in Northwest Ireland, having last flown for the airline on December 31st, 2019.

Earlier this year, Air France revealed that it would be retiring its entire Airbus A380 fleet immediately as it dealt with the COVID-19 impact on aviation. However, the aircraft type was already on its way out from the fleet before the crisis started, with F-HPJB leading the way a year ago. One year on from its final flight with the airline, the aircraft is now in a much different state.

Fuselage intact

Remarkably, the fuselage of the first Air France Airbus A380 to be retired appears to be still intact. However, that’s about all that remains attached to the aircraft. Photos show that many vital parts have already been salvaged from the aircraft, likely to be used as spares on other aircraft.

The aircraft sits jacked up on breeze blocks where its landing gear has been removed. Its vertical stabilizer lays on the ground, covering what appears to be wingtips and perhaps flaps. Some slides have been removed from underneath the upper emergency exits, and all of the aircraft’s engines have been removed.

Retiring the giant of the skies

As mentioned, earlier this year Air France decided to withdraw the Airbus A380 from use immediately. It had been intended that the fleet of ten aircraft would be retired from the airline by the end of 2022. Given that the airline didn’t foresee a need for the aircraft before they would leave the fleet, it didn’t make sense to keep them sitting around.

Today the fleet is scattered at various sites, including the Spanish aircraft graveyard Teruel and in Tarbes. However, it may not be the end of the line for the giant of the skies just yet. While the second hand Airbus A380 market never took off, there is hope that some former Air France A380s could find a buyer.


Hong Kong Grows Quarantine Requirement To Three Weeks

Hong Kong made waves with one of the strictest COVID-19-related quarantines in the world. Amid a recent growth in the number of cases in Hong Kong, all foreign arrivals must quarantine for a whopping 21 days, extending the previously-mandated 14-day quarantine by a week.

Hong Kong quarantine requirement grows

Hong Kong announced amid the Christmas holiday that all travelers who are coming from places outside of China must undergo a compulsory 21-day quarantine in a designated quarantine hotel. Passengers, who otherwise have to comply with strict entry protocols, have to now work with this new requirement.

The 21-day quarantine requirement started on December 25th and was a near last-minute decision that has thrown things into chaos in the city for travelers. Passengers have to make their arrangements and show compliance with entry restrictions before boarding their flights.

Hong Kong has seen a recent spike in the number of cases. While the numbers themselves have been pretty low, the city has taken a strict approach when it comes to COVID-19.

While other locations have turned to COVID-19 testing before or after, or both, as a means to allow essential travel, Hong Kong has resisted this and maintained a quarantine requirement. While other places in the world have shortened mandated quarantines, Hong Kong is doing the opposite.

Hong Kong further isolates itself

Hong Kong has joined Australia and New Zealand as isolated localities that are off-limits without severe quarantine and most foreigners.Advertisement:

Previously, the city was well-known for banning airlines that crossed certain thresholds by transporting COVID-positive passengers, either knowingly or unknowingly, in a certain period of time. This precluded those airlines from flying passengers to Hong Kong, though they could still fly passengers out of Hong Kong. British Airways faced a ban through Christmas.

A worsening situation for airlines

The already few passengers who are flying to Hong Kong now will be further reduced. The city used to be one of the most important destinations in the world for business travelers and was also a hub for leisure travelers. While the city still has an important financial impact globally, much of that is due to airlines that help keep the city connected to other financial centers, such as New York and London.

Airlines will likely see a fall-off in bookings. At the current rate Hong Kong is going, it will likely be one of the last places to reopen and may mandate proof of vaccinations for inbound arrivals, similar to what other countries do with other vaccines, like yellow fever.

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s hometown carrier, will face the brunt of this. The airline has already seen one of the worst, if not the worst year, in its long history, and it currently shows few if any signs of abating, with limited support from the government.

While passenger carriers, including Cathay Pacific, have turned to cargo-only flights, it is still not enough for airlines to turn a profit. Even “preighters” (passenger jets being used as temporary freighters) have not helped airlines. These aircraft cannot carry the large, heavy, and expensive cargo on the main deck that would otherwise earn cargo carriers millions of dollars in a year.


Is Delta Bringing Back Inflight Catering This Spring?

Delta Air Lines has signed a new long-term catering contract with DO & CO. The catering agreement, which will go into effect from March of 2021, will cover all of Delta’s daily departures out of Detroit.

Delta’s partnership with DO & CO

Delta Air Lines and DO & CO signed a long-term catering contract agreement that will go into effect on March 16th, 2021. The agreement will make DO & CO the airline’s sole hub caterer out of Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) on all of Delta’s short and long-haul flights for the next 10 years.

DO & CO billed the measure as showing the catering company’s strength and is a decisive milestone in the company’s US expansion plans. DO & CO will be able to, and appears to be gearing up to, participate in Delta’s upcoming hub tenders in 2021.

DO & CO Catering

DO & CO has partnerships with over 60 airlines around the world. This includes some of the world’s leading airlines, such as British Airways, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and more. DO & CO also provides on-the-ground catering at select lounges, including Lufthansa’s First Class lounge. DO & CO also offers a Flying Chef service. This can be found on carriers like Turkish Airlines and Austrian Airlines.

DO & CO is well-known as one of the world’s best catering companies for inflight services.

Is full inflight catering coming back?

Delta has been one of the most conservative airlines when it comes to meal service. On domestic flights, including premium transcontinental flights, in business class, Delta is only serving a snack box. This snack box, previously offered for sale in economy, can also be found on domestic and short-haul international Delta and Delta Connection flights in premium cabins that would previously have offered a meal service.

The one set of flights where Delta is offering a more substantial catering service is on long-haul operations. As Simple Flying got a chance to review Delta One between São Paulo and Atlanta, Delta has consolidated meal services with a focus on efficiency and minimizing contact between flight attendants and passengers. All meals are served on a single tray, and not a long, drawn-out meal service such as was previously offered on long-haul operations in Delta One.

Delta does not seem to be changing its course. The airline has extended seat blocking through March 2021, though it is likely that will be closer to when Delta ends its policy of blocking seats onboard aircraft. It is thus likely to expect a full meal service will not be on offer in March.

However, this could be the start of Delta upgrading its long-haul international meal services. Before the crisis hit, Delta Air Lines launched a new economy experience for long-haul flights. With a more efficient meal service likely to be around in March and beyond for at least the foreseeable future, Delta seems to be pivoting to upgrading those services, so it can compete effectively on long-haul routes and keep lucrative business travelers coming back.

Detroit is one of Delta’s gateways to Asia, with flights to Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Paris, Nagoya, and more. So, with this new catering contract, those flights will likely benefit with enhanced catering compared to other hubs.

Time will reveal what Delta will do with this DO & CO partnership, but this is something to look out for in the future.


Christmas Surge: US Traveler Numbers Top 1 Million Again Twice

Passenger numbers in the US are growing again after a lull in the post-Thanksgiving weeks. On Friday, December 18th, and Saturday, December 19th, numbers in the US again topped one million in a day. This is indicative of a Christmas holiday that will be relatively strong for airlines.

The Christmas travel surge

Despite warnings from public health officials, Americans appear ready to take to the skies. The TSA recorded two consecutive days of over one million passengers traveling in a given day. The official data leading up to the weekend was as follows:

  • Wednesday, December 16th: 641,966 passengers
  • Thursday, December 17th: 846,934 passengers
  • Friday, December 18th: 1,066,747 passengers
  • Saturday, December 19th: 1,073,563 passengers

These numbers are just the lead-up to what is turning out to be a busy travel period in the United States. In the coming weeks, passengers will most definitely top one million travelers again, especially as it gets closer to Christmas and then New Years’ Day. Passenger numbers will again be high as people head home after the holiday season.

Much of this travel is VFR, that is, visiting friends and relatives. People tend to go home for Christmas and spend time with family. Those who are going on leisure vacations are likely heading to sun or ski destinations. Now is an opportune time for skiing, as seen by JetBlue’s arrival in Telluride this weekend.

The post-Thanksgiving lull

After a strong Thanksgiving, travel numbers slipped back into the sub 900,000 per day mark. Traditionally, there are still healthy traveler numbers between Thanksgiving and Christmas as people start to head out for winter vacations. This year, it appears that most people held off from taking those trips and instead waited until Christmas before boarding a plane.

Christmas is usually another good time of year for airlines. While most people are not flying transatlantic to places in Europe due to the cold weather, they are doing a lot of domestic flights, which is why airlines tend to lay on more domestic flights as the holiday season rolls around.

What comes next for airlines?

The Christmas holiday is a reminder that the first quarter of 2021 will be rough. Spring break, which normally helps airlines in March, will look a lot different this year, and airlines will need to monitor demand to see what happens.

There is a lot of hope for more widespread vaccinations heading into the summer holidays. Airlines want to move beyond the public health emergency, and they hope vaccinations will help do that. Plenty of airlines eagerly began to ship the vaccine around the country after the FDA certified the vaccines for emergency use.

Early 2021 will likely see a lot of the same language from airlines (cash burn is still high, travel demand remains low, restrictions still hinder most people’s ability to travel abroad, business travel is still far below normal, and the crisis is still unprecedented).


Boeing’s 787 ecoDemonstrator Enters Service With Etihad

Boeing’s 787 ecoDemonstrator aircraft has entered service with Etihad, following its delivery in October. Boeing used the aircraft to test environmental and noise reducing initiatives before its delivery.

Many expected the 2020s to be the decade where the main focus in aviation was on the industry’s sustainability and driving down emissions. While airlines are still extremely focused on such goals, health and safety have become the central theme of aviation this year. One airline demonstrating its commitment to reducing its environmental footprint is Etihad. This year, the airline operated special flights with another of its 787-10s, known as the Greenliner.

The ecoDemonstrator is flying for Etihad

Etihad took delivery of the former Boeing 787-10 ecoDemonstrator in October. However, the aircraft has so far not been taking to the skies for the Abu Dhabi-based carrier. The aircraft took its first flight post-testing on November 25th as EY77 from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam.

It was only today the airline officially inaugurated the aircraft. The aircraft features a plaque commemorating its role, while some of its testing logos remain on the fuselage. Additionally, the airline had written ‘From Abu Dhabi for the World’ on the side. At the time of writing, the aircraft was operating a return leg from Milan.

“As the first 787- 10 to take part in the ecoDemonstrator programme, this very special aircraft stands testament to the innovation and drive for sustainable aviation that forms a core element of Etihad’s values and long-term vision”

What was the ecoDemonstrator?

The Boeing ecoDemonstrator is the American manufacturer’s program of testing new technologies to improve its aircraft’s efficiency. Many aircraft have been used for the program, from a Boeing 737 to the mighty 777. However, Boeing typically uses a customer’s aircraft rather than one of its own.

In the case of the Etihad 787-10 ecoDemonstrator, one of the main focuses was on the noise produced by the aircraft. As such, 214 microphones were attached to the aircraft’s fuselage, with an array of over 1,000 more microphones laid out over a Montana runway.

One of the tests placed a particular focus on the noise generated by an aircraft’s landing gear. Bright orange fairings were placed on the landing gear, giving them an aerofoil shape. The aircraft was then flown low over the array of microphones.

While the flight data is yet to be revealed, onlookers said that they noticed a reduction in noise with the farings. This is a crucial finding if confirmed, as landing gear accounts for 30% of the noise generated by an aircraft coming into land.


United Airlines Expects Massive Cash Burn Increase Over Slowing Demand

United Airlines has updated its fourth-quarter average daily cash burn. Coupled with a slowdown in travel demand, United has revised its estimated fourth-quarter cash burn estimate upwards to be north of $24 million. This comes as public health experts warn the winter could get much darker, which would spell bad news for United heading into January and December. It is, however, excited for summer 2021.

United’s revises cash burn estimates upwards

In a mid-November update, United Airlines expected average daily cash burn during the fourth quarter to be approximately $15 million to $20 million, plus $10 million of average debt principal payments and severance payments per day.

Now, United has revised it upwards to be between $24 million to $26 million, plus $10 million in average debt principal payments and severance payments.

United attributed a few different reasons for the increasing cash burn. This includes a continued deceleration in bookings and a change in working capital due to a shift in certain payments and receipts between quarters.

Overall, United expects fourth-quarter total revenue to be down close to 70% in the fourth quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

The revised cash burn estimate for 2020 puts United in line with other airlines, like American Airlines, in a higher cash burn amid a slowdown in demand. The slowdown comes as case counts across the country continue to increase, and local jurisdictions increase travel restrictions. Heading into 2021, United has already decreased its schedule for international flights through the start of the year.

A recovery is on the horizon

United Airlines sees a recovery on the horizon. While the carrier does not expect it to follow a linear path, which is very much clear thus far. One of the most interesting things, however, is where United sees some bookings.

The airline is currently seeing bookings for the third quarter of 2021 to be down approximately 40%. Meanwhile, bookings for December 2020 and January 2021 are down a whopping 70%. This means that there is some resiliency and expectation that people will be able to do some travel in the third quarter of 2021.

United’s team has consistently pinned their hopes of a recovery on a vaccine. With more encouraging news coming out in the last few weeks about a vaccine, United Airlines states it has confidence in a strong recovery and trajectory of the rebound in 2021 and beyond.

The third quarter of 2021

The third quarter of 2021 will run from July through September, and it is typically one of the stronger quarters for airlines. It is also one of the busiest transatlantic travel quarters of the year.

This year’s third quarter was blunted in part due to heavy travel restrictions at home and abroad coupled with uncertainty over travel itself. Come 2021. United is hoping that many of these restrictions will be lessened amid the release and distribution of a vaccine. However, that will take time. Until it comes to market and becomes more widespread, United will have to go through a tough winter.


Two Passengers Skip Quarantine Affecting 176 Virgin Australia Passengers

A quarantine bungle at Sydney Airport on the weekend saw two passengers board a domestic flight after coming in from Germany. The pair should have gone straight into a 14-day quarantine. Instead, miscommunication saw them allowed to board a Virgin Australia service to Melbourne. However, an alert guard at Melbourne Airport realized something was amiss and notified authorities.

New South Wales Police “own” their mistake

Two dual German-Australian nationals, a 53-year woman and her 15-year-old son arrived in Sydney on Saturday. They had come in from Germany via Tokyo on an All Nippon Airways flight. The two travelers had through boarding passes to Melbourne in their possession.

Normally, international arrivals are herded straight onto a bus and taken to downtown hotels to sit out their 14-day quarantine.

New South Wales Police told Simple Flying that the two travelers had been directed to board the bus when they said they were continuing onto Melbourne.

A New South Wales Police Officer checked the story out and allowed the pair to continue traveling. They were even given a lift across to the domestic terminals for their Virgin Australia flight.

But it turns out the Police Officer involved erred in thinking the travelers had an exemption. On Sunday, New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Jeff Loy blamed language barriers and miscommunication for the error.

“The police officer has admitted his mistake,” said Deputy Commissioner Loy.

“He should have clarified. He accepts that. We’ll own the mistake, and we’ll move forward.”

An alert security guard in Melbourne raises the alarm

Meanwhile, the woman and her son boarded Virgin Australia flight VA838 (operated by VH-YFX) at midday on Saturday for the flight to Melbourne. There were 176 passengers and six crew on the flight. After an extended internal border closure, there is finally freedom of movement between Sydney and Melbourne. Melbourne has just come out of several months of lockdown. The city has recorded 38 days without a COVID-19 case and is keen to keep that winning streak going.

The two travelers are not accused of misleading authorities. Rather, there appears to be a genuine language barrier and a miscommunication issue.

“Police practices and systems at the airport have also been reviewed and strengthened as a result of this incident,” says New South Wales Police.

Having flown to Melbourne, an alert private security guard at that airport noticed the pair looking “lost” near a public transport stand. When the guard, Claudio Cominotto, realized what had happened, he called it in.

“Just don’t send them anywhere. Hold them for a minute. I need to confirm what’s going on.’ I thought if they haven’t quarantined, then this is a big problem,” was the response from his boss quoted in The Age newspaper last night.

It turns out the two travelers were expecting to go into quarantine in Melbourne and wondering why they were allowed to roam free.

They were very compliant, very friendly, wearing masks with the correct PPE,” said Peter Mikha, a security duty officer at Melbourne Airport on Saturday.

“They let us know everything we wanted. There was no question. They did not want to avoid it. They were looking for quarantine.”

Passengers in self-quarantine, Virgin Australia aircraft pulled from service

Claudio Cominotto is getting a lot of praise for his quick thinking. New South Wales Police – not so much. While the mother and son duo have since tested negative for COVID-19 and are holed up in quarantine in a Melbourne hotel, the incident potentially exposed the passengers and crew on the Virgin Australia flight to COVID-19.

Victoria’s Department of Health asked the passengers and crew on the flight to immediately go into self-quarantine. In a media statement, a blameless Virgin Australia said;

“We have passed on the passenger manifest to the relevant health authorities to assist them in contacting the passengers on the flight, and we have been in contact with the crew operating the flight.

“Upon being informed these guests had traveled on our aircraft without entering hotel quarantine, we removed the aircraft from service to perform a deep clean, as a precautionary measure.”

Meanwhile, with Melbourne now accepting some limited inbound international passengers, there’s the potential for more security bungles and miscommunication issues. That will keep people like Claudio Cominotto on the hop.


Air France Won’t Scrap The First Class Cabin

Although many carriers are choosing to move away from a first class product, CEO of the Air France-KLM Group, Ben Smith, believes that it has a place long term at Air France. He describes La Premier as ‘best in class’, saying that the airline is committed to keeping it, and will be reinvesting in the product.

La Premier is here to stay

With airlines all over the world cutting first class in favor of larger business class cabins, it would be understandable if Air France was on the road to phasing it out. However, speaking at yesterday’s Routes Reconnected, CEO Ben Smith said he remains committed to the airline’s premium cabin. He said,

“Air France… is still one of the only carriers that has first class, La Premier, which is usually viewed as best in class. So, we’ve decided to reinvest in that. We’re going to keep it.”

Some of the first class capacity at Air France has already vanished with the exit of the A380. Each of the 10 aircraft had nine first class seats, meaning a loss of 90 across the fleet. The only other aircraft with first were select 777-300ERs, which totaled 76 seats in all. Half of Air France’s first has gone.

Nevertheless, the product on the 777s was far better than that on the A380, so overall, the quality has increased, even if the quantity has declined. While Smith didn’t say specifically where he was ‘reinvesting’ in first, the only place really left to invest is in the incoming A350s.

A couple of months ago, rumors were flying that some of the A350 fleet may get a first cabin. It would be a break from the norm, with many other operators choosing not to have first in their new Airbus widebodies. Air France has 38 A350s on order, with six already in operation (none of which have first).

Not many operators have first on the A350. Malaysia Airlines has just four first class seats on the A350, now rebranded as ‘business suites’, while Japan Airlines is looking at 12 (although they’re not truly first class standard). China Eastern has just four in a 1-2-1 arrangement. If Air France is looking to replace some of the capacity lost from the retirement of the A380, we could see 10, 15 or maybe even 20 A350s rocking up with first onboard.

Business travel will return

Investing in first is all well and good, but with business travel predicted to be stunted for some time, is Air France worried? It seems Smith is positive that business travel would return, albeit more slowly than other sectors. He stated that, “Business travel will come back, but it will be number three,” behind visiting friends and relatives and leisure travel demand.

Some have speculated that the rise in virtual communications and remote working could kill off business travel long term. A report in today’s Wall Street Journal suggests that business travel could be cut by as much as 36%, permanently. However, Smith believes that there’s only so much you can do from the comfort of your own home.

It’s a sentiment shared by some other airline CEOs, including Air France’s joint venture partner Delta Air Lines. Notably, Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, has presented a bullish front on the return of business flying, saying that, “The first time someone loses a sale to a competitor who showed up in person is the last time they try to make a sales call on Zoom.”

Whether that’s wishful thinking remains to be seen, but Smith isn’t counting only on business travel to fill up his first class cabins.

Air France isn’t counting on business

Even if business travel will be last to return, Smith stated that this is not the only reason to keep first class in the skies. He noted that a large proportion of Air France’s premium fliers are actually not traveling on business at all. He said,

Smith believes that the attractions of France as a destination, coupled with the exceptional premium product offered by Air France, will give him the opportunity to claim back market share. He said,

“As you know here in France you have fashion, you have culture, you have exceptional gastronomy. So, you have a reason for people all over the world to come here, other than business, and it’s huge.

“Air France only had 45% of air traffic prior to COVID. So, there’s an enormous amount of opportunity for us to regain some of that share.”


Air New Zealand’s Brand New Boeing 787-10 Fleet: What You Need To Know

In May 2019, Air New Zealand announced its commitment to purchase eight Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft powered by GEnx engines. A year and a half have passed, and a health crisis has gripped much of the world. How has this time affected the airline’s aircraft order, and what’s the latest? Let’s find out.

The initial order

The initial order, announced by the airline on May 27th, 2019, was to have the first 787-10 join the Air New Zealand fleet in 2022, alongside its existing fleet of 787-9 Dreamliners. The carrier initially said that the first new aircraft was expected to join the Air New Zealand fleet in “late 2022,” with the remainder delivered at intervals through 2027.

“The 787-10 is longer and even more fuel efficient. However, the game changer for us has been that by working closely with Boeing, we’ve ensured the 787-10 will meet our network needs, including the ability to fly missions similar to our current 777-200 fleet.” -Christopher Luxon, Chief Executive, Air New Zealand via an airline press release

As stated above by Mr Luxon, the new long-haul planes were purchased with the intention of replacing Air New Zealand’s fleet of eight 777-200 aircraft, which will be phased out by 2025. Combined with GE’s GEnx-1B engines, the airline says the jets are expected to be 25% more fuel-efficient than the aircraft they’re replacing.

In addition to the eight firm orders announced, the agreement included options to increase the number of aircraft from eight to up to 20 as well as substitution rights that allow a switch from the larger 787-10 to smaller 787-9s or a combination of the two models for future fleet and network flexibility. The delivery schedule can also be delayed or accelerated according to market demand. The last point would be key in adapting to the events of 2020.

787-10 delivery delayed

“We’ve already pushed those orders back a little bit,” Air New Zealand’s Chief Revenue Officer Cam Wallace said to Executive Traveller when asked about the Boeing 787-10s. However, Wallace failed to specify what “a little bit” meant. However, we think that this means the first could be delivered in early 2023 at the earliest.

Wallace adds that the airline has fleet flexibility and that his team and financing fleet are “working through the options in terms of what are the different scenarios.”

New cabin details

In the middle of November, reports suggested that the airline could be planning a ‘business class plus’ feature for the premium travel section of the plane. This new subdivision of business class would give passengers the ability to upgrade their experience for something a little more special.

This concept, which could also be considered ‘first class lite,’ would see additional space allocated to the first row of business class. The survey, sent out by Air New Zealand, suggests that, compared to the other seats in the cabin, row one would have more legroom, a ‘shared dining experience,’ and greater privacy.

As yet, there have been no leaks of what the new product would look like or which manufacturers are in the running. Still, we can get some insight by looking at other airlines that are already flying this type of offer.

With the new aircraft set to be the airline’s flagship jets, it’s likely that they’ll also receive these new seats. After all, a new aircraft means that there’s no need to deal with a retrofit and removal of existing seats, making it the perfect opportunity to install a new product.

Ultimately, “late 2022” and early 2023 are quite a while away, and much could change over the course of 2021. We’ll have to keep an eye on Air New Zealand and what it decides to do with its multi-billion-dollar order of long-range jets!


Thousands Still Struggling To Return To Australia

Hindered by tight weekly international passenger arrival caps, no-one really knows how many Aussies are trying to get home by Christmas. But according to The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA), an industry body representing international airlines flying into Australia, well over 10,000 Australians will remain stranded overseas over the Christmas New Year period.

“The number of Australians overseas seeking to return home before the end of 2020 but now without an option to do so far exceeds the immediate waiting list of at least 10,000,” Barry Abrams, Executive Director of BARA said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This is because to meet the tight international passenger arrival caps, which were implemented with very short notice, many international airlines were forced to stop selling tickets some months ago.

“This means that the estimated immediate waiting list of 10,000 Australians overseas after airlines have booked flights to the permitted caps, does not include those who have been unable to book a ticket or join a waiting list.”

Tight limits on the number of arriving passengers keeps citizens out of their own country

Since mid-year, Australia has only been accepting around 6,000 inbound international passengers per week. This sees flights coming in with as few as 30 passengers allowed onboard and cries of price gouging as those airlines elect to sell pricy premium seats over cheaper economy class seats.

The Australian Government recently lifted the weekly arrivals cap by around 2,000 passengers. There is a compulsory 14-day quarantine in a government-mandated facility in place. The arrivals cap is an attempt to keep COVID-19 at bay. Further, no-one wants to overwhelm government agencies tasked with running the quarantine and health operations.

It’s a stance that’s won broad support. But the casualties have been substantial numbers of Australian citizens caught overseas. They’ve been effectively prevented from returning to their own country because they can’t snag one of the available entry spots.

It’s also bad news for the airlines who are continuing services in Australia. Allowed to sell so few seats, most of the carriers focus on selling premium-priced tickets. This allows them to recoup as much money as possible on the long flight to Australia.

Qantas plans to lay on more repatriation flights

National carrier Qantas has largely vacated the market, flying very few international flights since late March. But it has operated some government underwritten repatriation flights over the last two months on a cost-recovery basis.

 “As the national carrier, this is something we are proud to do,” said CEO Alan Joyce in October.

These flights were due to wrap up shortly. But in an interview earlier this week, Mr Joyce indicated the repatriation flights would continue into the New Year.

We’re working with the government on a lot more of those flights occurring,” Mr Joyce told ABC’s Radio National Breakfast on Monday.

“We’ve got more before Christmas, more passing into the New Year as well.”

Airline industry calls more a more nuanced approach to quarantine

That’s undoubtedly welcome news for stranded Australians. Mr Joyce, BARA, and a host of aviation insiders want a more nuanced risk-based approach to international arrivals rather than the flat 14-day quarantine period.

Through a combination of testing and looking at where you’ve flown in from, quarantine periods could be shortened. Alan Joyce won’t say by how long exactly but less than a week isn’t out of the question.

That would free up capacity in quarantine facilities, meaning airlines could bring in more people more frequently and get more stranded Australians home. BARA’s Barry Abrams says airlines are just pawns in the bigger game. He says the decision ultimately rests with the various State Governments in Australia who manage the health systems.

“The decision as to whether more Australians can return home before 31 December now ultimately rests with the individual state governments, who must decide if international arrivals can use the freed-up domestic quarantine capacity.

“For their part, international airlines are already providing more than enough flights and seats to return these Australians home,”