The Australian Government is facilitating additional commercial flights from the United Kingdom, India and South Africa to help more Australians return amid the unprecedented travel disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government has finalised an initial programme with Qantas of eight flights over coming weeks from London, New Delhi and Johannesburg.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials will work with Qantas to ensure the most vulnerable Australians registered are given priority access to these flights.
We are doing everything we can to help Australians who have faced difficulty returning because of the pandemic.
The first two flights will depart London on 22 October and New Delhi on 26 October. Each flight will carry 175 passengers. As more quarantine facility space has become available with fewer domestic travellers needing to quarantine, we have been working with the Northern Territory Government so Australian passengers from overseas can undertake their 14 days’ quarantine on return at the Howard Springs facility.
This arrangement will create the capacity for more than 5,000 Australians to return over the next six months.
We thank the Northern Territory Government for its assistance in this effort.
In parallel, we are continuing to work with state and territory authorities to increase quarantine capacity through major airports, as well as for further facilitated flights. We are also continuing discussions to increase the number of airports receiving Australians from overseas.
The Government continues to assist vulnerable Australians overseas through consular assistance and through the Hardship Program. Financial assistance is available to help cover the costs of flights where other sources of finance have been exhausted.
There are more than 29,000 Australians currently registered with DFAT wishing to return to Australia.
Around 398,000 Australians have returned since 13 March. The Australian Government has helped over 29,100 Australians return, including on 64 directly facilitated flights.
More than 4,100 Australians registered with DFAT have returned since 18 September, including over a quarter who were considered vulnerable.
We continue to encourage Australians trying to return to Australia from overseas to register with DFAT through the nearest embassy or high commission or via Smartraveller.
The Government is underwriting the cost of the flights, and airfares will be available at commercial rates to passengers, with loans through DFAT available to those who need assistance.