Seats on flights to Perth as ‘gold dust’, as the COVID-19 arrival cap prevents overseas travel

As New South Wales and Victoria open their international borders, and finally allow for family reunions, the picture on the west coast of the country could not be more different.

Travel agencies in Western Australia say they are being flooded with calls from people wanting to reconnect with family abroad, but the continued border on arrivals to Perth means seats, especially on incoming flights, are like “gold dust”.

Ceri Grantis from South Perth Travel says, like the rest of Australia, that Western Australians no longer need to apply for a dispensation to travel abroad.

But not much else has changed.

“We get a lot of calls, but in truth, nothing has changed for WA,” she said.

Jennie Bardsley of British Travel said there were currently five airlines flying in and out of Perth.

But she said they had very few seats between them because of the travel ceiling, which is set at only 265 incoming passengers a week.

A woman with short brown hair stands in front of a garden bed
Jennie Bardsley owns the independent Perth-based travel company British Travel.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

“We generally have no economy class seats in Perth on, say, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Qatar before probably in March,” Bardsley said.

From this week, fully vaccinated Australian nationals and permanent residents can travel abroad without having to apply for a waiver.

New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT have also scrapped quarantine for double-vaccinated international arrivals, but other states are moving more cautiously and still require quarantine at home or in a hotel for up to 14 days.

An Emirates B777 arrives in Adelaide
Only a handful of airlines currently fly from international destinations to Perth.

In Western Australia, hotel quarantine at the traveler’s significant expense will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Mrs Bardsley said some travelers were considering flying to other capitals and then to Perth, but that was also problematic.

“A lot of people say they want to fly to Sydney or Melbourne and then come to Perth,” she said.

“But you can not get a G2G passport [to enter WA] unless you are like a critical worker or an MP or defense force [personnel]. “

Singapore Airlines flights at Canberra Airport
A flight from Singapore Airlines at Canberra Airport.(ABC News)

As the travel industry continues to push for a date that Western Australia opens up, Prime Minister Mark McGowan has signaled that the bottleneck in Perth is ready to ease.

“When we reach 70 per cent double-dose vaccination, we will double the number of returned Australians entering our hotels, so it will take it to 530 [passengers] per week, “McGowan said.

As of yesterday, 62.2 percent of WA’s population over the age of 12 were fully vaccinated.

Increase the arrival ceiling corresponding to only two flights per week

Christian Hunter of the travel agency’s umbrella group, Travelers Choice, welcomed the change, but said it would make very little difference.

“When you think a medium-sized plane has maybe 300 people on it, it’s really only equivalent to two flights a week,” said Mr. Hunter.

“So it really puts a lot of constraints on people’s ability to travel.

Meanwhile, Mrs Bardsley said some travelers from the United Kingdom asked to fly to Darwin on Qantas’ direct route from London and then travel to Perth.

But she said Qantas had recently clarified that was not an option.

“A lot of people have had this assumption that they can get into Darwin,” she said.

“But Qantas now states on its website that only residents of the Northern Territory can actually leave in Darwin.”

Qantas fly
Qantas has not yet resumed its international services from Perth. (ABC News: Jason Om)

In addition to the demand for aircraft, parents of Australian nationals and permanent residents, as the federal government said last month, would be able to visit under new rules.

Mrs Bardsley said her staff had made hundreds of inquiries from families about the new scheme.

On a positive note, the industry believes airlines will increase services quickly once the McGowan government clarifies its reopening plan.

“The airlines will put the services on to support the people,” said Mr. Hunter.

“But until the time we get that commitment from the state, in terms of what the reopening looks like, the airlines will not put their machinery into Western Australia because they can install it elsewhere where it can work well for them. . “

Traveling abroad more complicated than ever

Until then, travelers are encouraged to be careful about going online and booking flights that may not exist.

“There are heaps of ghost flights,” Ms Bardsley said.

“Some of the airlines have basically got their schedules in the airline system because they do not want to lose their slot and then they will cancel their flights a month before.”

A woman puts her hand on the shoulder of a child wearing a red sweater.  Both are wearing medical face masks with suitcases nearby
As of this week, hotel quarantine and the cap on arrivals have been scrapped in NSW for fully vaccinated travelers.(AAP / Darren England)

At the same time, she said, international travel had become far more complicated, with many more considerations for travelers.

“The rules are changing all the time, it’s not just a case of booking a flight anymore,” she said.

“You’ve basically learned the airline’s rules, the COVID test rules, you need to know the transit rules, the landing rules.

“It’s not just a case of jumping online and booking something.

“Never has a travel agency been worth their value more than now.”

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