Travel expert quashes hopes of flying overseas by Christmas

Qantas says it's planning to restart international flights in December.

The airline says it will initially fly to places with high vaccination rates such as the UK, US, Singapore, Canada and Japan.

While boss Alan Joyce may be keen to get planes in the air amid a multi billion dollar loss, an expert warned Aussies not to get too excited.

The national carrier hasn't flown passengers internationally except on reparation flights since March 2020.

READ MORE: Qantas could move direct flights to London from Perth to Darwin but WA Premier says its 'outrageous'

Qantas planes taxi on the runway at Sydney Airport.

Quentin Long, founder of Australian Traveller Media all but dashed hopes Aussies could be going overseas at Christmas.

"My heart, my dreaming says it's a 50/50 per cent chance but my head unfortunately says it's a 30 per cent chance on travel returning by Christmas," he told Today.

READ MORE: There are now 43,000 Aussies trying to get home

An international travel ban – one of the harshest in the world, was slapped in place at the start of the pandemic.

Anybody coming in, which is limited to citizens and PRs with a few exemptions, must do hotel quarantine which costs over $3000 each.

Only 3000 passengers are allowed a month and all must test negative before leaving and do hotel quarantine.

That rule needs to lift to allow people to leave the country and return again without permission.

And that will only be triggered by vaccination rates of 80 percent.

Even then it's unclear when completely free travel in and out for all will be allowed.

When will Australia reach 80 per cent vaccinated for international travel?

At 80 percent vaccinated, also known as Phase C under the government's plan, caps on vaccinated Australians returning will be abolished altogether.

Australia is currently at around 33 percent fully vaccinated, but projections do predict it could hit the target well by the end of the year.

Prime Minister Scott has said at that point there will be a gradual reopening of "inward and outbound international travel with safe countries".

He said a country would be considered safe if it had the "same sort of vaccination levels as Australia" along with "proportionate quarantine".

When will Qantas resume international flights?

Mr Long said more details about Qantas, as well as other airlines flying as normal will become clear in the next few months.

"I would probably say wait a couple of weeks to see what happens," he said.

Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce

"By November we will have a much better idea."

Qantas, in its plans, indicated nations with lower vaccination rates would come later – Hong Kong in February, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, and Johannesburg in April.

He said he thought travel was more likely by January or February 2022, noting the government needs to put in protocols.

Key would be removing that ban and establishing any need for quarantine for vaccinated people, or establishing home quarantine which is currently under trial for a small few in South Australia.

"Buried in Qantas's announcement is we will not commence flights until they stop quarantine coming back into this country," he noted.

"For that to happen, we need to have international guests allowed to travel to this country and we need to know what are the protocols, the laws, and how that will work and what can we expect and then we communicate that the world and get that machinery of getting people here and that is a long, long road to recovery."

Meanwhile, there are almost Aussies overseas 45,000 who have told officials at DFAT they want to come back who are desperately waiting for travel returning to normal. Only 3000 a month are allowed in.

Will Qantas require a vaccine passport?

No details have yet been formalised but it is likely some kind of paperwork to prove vaccination will be needed to travel.

Mr Morrison has said earlier, indications which could allow vaccinated Aussies to travel were still being worked on.

When can we travel overseas again?

While no official announcement has been made, paperwork from the Federal Budget papers indicates mid-2022 will be the date leaving Australia without permission might be possible.

It said: "The rate of international arrivals will continue to be constrained by state and territory quarantine caps over 2021 and the first half of 2022".

International travel exemptions – how to get one

Australians have been banned from travelling overseas since March 2020.

The nation has the harshest travel rules in the world.

But there are exceptions.

When it comes to leaving, you can apply for an exemption from Home Affairs.

The official reasons allowed are: If travel is in response to the pandemic, for work, for medical treatment, for a "compelling reason" for more than three months, which must be declared in a statutory declaration, for "compassionate or humanitarian grounds" or if it's in the national interest.

Last year around 11,000 people a month were given permission to leave.

Who can come to Australia?

Meanwhile, in the opposite direction, officially, only Aussies, permanent residents, and their 'immediate family', classed by the government as de facto and spouses plus children can come to Australia.

Parents are not included.

Travel remains difficult and expensive.

Mandatory, 14-day hotel quarantine on arrival costs from $3000 each, or $5000 for a family- even if people have been vaccinated overseas.

Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks

Repatriation flights have been running on top of commercial services – which remain limited from many countries.

But the DFAT facilitated flights, which land at Darwin with quarantine at the old mining camp at Howard Springs, are not free, with tickets costing around $1500 at least.

However, celebrities and professional athletes have sparked outrage by being allowed to come and go.

Plus, Australians who normally live overseas can also come on holiday – but do need permission to leave after a rule change

Diplomats, seasonal workers recruited from the Pacific, and people on 'Business Innovation and Investment visas' are also exempt, Home Affairs said.


People on temporary visas, such as migrant workers, are also barred from entering – even if they lived here when the borders closed but were overseas.

People are also allowed to apply to come if they have a "critical skill" of if travel is in the "national interest," or if they have "compassionate and compelling reasons".

The UK has put Australia on its 'green' travel list which in theory allows Brits to come – even though they're not allowed in.

Students are also currently barred apart from through trial schemes to get them back, with Australia losing billions over the ban.

There is a new plan to allow them to return.

A total of 230 were allowed in March 2021 – in comparison to 60,000 normally that month in the previous year.


When will travel restrictions end?

There are growing calls that Australia needs to move away from having zero cases and reopen the border once people are vaccinated.

Former government medical adviser Dr Nick Coatsworth says eradication is not possible, and the government needs to prepare for that.

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