It’s no secret that Aussies love to travel, whether to farflung overseas destinations or to landmarks close to home, most just want to get out and explore. And after being cooped up inside your house for months on end, you might be dreaming of your next holiday, keen to reconnect with family and friends, or plan an entirely new adventure. But is it safe to fly? Do you need to take any precautions before leaving home? Is there even anywhere to travel to?
We’re happy to report that the easing lockdown restrictions across most states means that domestic travel and interstate holidays will soon be within reach. International travel might be off the cards until 2021, but the majority of state and territory borders will be open by mid-July, and a potential ‘travel-bubble’ with New Zealand is in discussion.
Still, it’s important to note that your current travel options largely depend on where you live. At present, many states have their own rules and restrictions in place:
New South Wales, Victoria, and the ACT - there are currently no border restrictions in these states, and you can fly into them and between them without trouble or having to isolate
Northern Territory – non-essential travellers entering the NT, including returning residents, must undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine and pay a ‘quarantine fee’. Borders are set to reopen on July 17th
Queensland – You cannot enter QLD at present unless it’s for essential reasons. Queensland residents are able to return home, but must quarantine for two weeks if they have been to a Covid-19 hotspot in the last 14 days. Borders are likely to open sometime in July
South Australia - the SA Government has recently eased border restrictions for people entering the state from Western Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. Travellers entering SA directly from WA, TAS, and NT are no longer required to quarantine for 14 days, but non-essential travellers from other states are still asked to do so. Borders are set to be reopened on July 20th
Tasmania – All non-essential travellers to Tasmania must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, including returning residents. Borders are set to reopen on June 26th
Western Australia – strict border closures are in place in WA. Travellers are not permitted to enter the state unless they have been granted special exemption
At present, Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Regional Express Airlines (REX) are flying extremely limited domestic schedules from most major airports. Qantas and its budget arm Jetstar are planning to ramp up their domestic services once interstate border restrictions ease, while Rex is rumoured to be preparing for increased regional travel.
It’s not clear as to whether Virgin and it’s low-cost offshoot TigerAir will restart their regular interstate flight services in the near future, as the company is currently in voluntary administration.
In short - no. Neither Qantas, Jetstar, or REX will be observing social distancing aboard their planes, either by leaving middle rows free or by spacing out passengers. Qantas’ chief executive Alan Joyce has warned that doing so would drastically inflate ticket prices, which is not economically justifiable given the low rates of transmission on aeroplanes.
"This idea of the middle seat [being left free] isn’t social distancing, it’s a 60cm difference between two people. To get the full [1.5 metres] squared, you will end up with 22 people on an aircraft of 180 seats and the airfares are nine to 10 times as much,” Joyce told ABC radio.
Regional Express Airlines has said that wherever possible, it will try to allocate alternating occupied and unoccupied seats, however, it still plans on filling planes to capacity.
There is no firm answer - airline executives have been quick to point out that there have been very few known or suspected cases of Covid-19 transmission on planes, whereas a number of epidemiologists and infectious disease experts have said that densely populated, enclosed spaces such as planes are ‘brilliant amplification environments’.
Qantas is in the process of rolling out its ‘fly well’ program, which aims to increase safety by utilising contactless check-ins, thoroughly cleaning aircraft, asking travellers to limit their movements around the cabin, placing limits on the number of times flight attendants can offer food and drinks, and providing alcohol wipes to all passengers. REX will also employ mandatory temperature testing of all passengers, and turning away travellers with flu-like symptoms.
In conjunction with these measures, passengers are advised to wear masks, unless they have a medical reason not to. Qantas is not planning to make mask-wearing mandatory, however it is required of all passengers flying with Regional Express Airlines.
While booking travel is largely a personal decision at this time, there are plenty of attractive airfares on offer for domestic departures in July and August. If you wish to visit family and friends, now’s the time to start planning to enjoy cheap flights and low cost airport parking. Airlines, hotels, and tourist attractions alike are keen to see travel begin again, so there are plenty of great deals available across New South Wales, Victoria, and the ACT.
If you are feeling nervous about travel in the post-coronavirus world - remember that it’s natural to worry, and that there are ways to allay your fears. Research your destination, read the various state government warnings, consider the worst-case scenarios, try to speak with people on the ground at your intended destination, and keep an eye on your flight status. It’s important to take a measured look at any potential dangers involved, and put them into perspective. Compared to Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Australia had very few deadly cases of COVID-19 and far fewer hotspots.
Another way to overcome any nervousness you may be feeling is to immerse yourself in the planning stage - read up on your destination, look at photographs to get inspired, chat with friends to get excited about your trip. This reinforces the reasons as to why you're taking small risks - the big rewards that come with enjoying an amazing holiday away.
The information presented in this article was accurate at the time of publishing, however travel restrictions can and may be loosened or imposed without warning. Flyparks does not accept responsibility or liability for the use of any of the information supplied.