Foreign Minister Marise Payne has confirmed the government is in talks with Qantas to schedule a second flight to Peru to bring Australians home.
Previously, the government worked with travel company Chimu Adventures to lay on flights to Peru and Uruguay, but faced criticism when it emerged some passengers paid more than $5,000 for an economy ticket, and twice that for business.
Talking to the ABC on Wednesday, Minister Payne said there are “literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Australians at any time overseas” and there are still “a very large number of Australians overseas”.
Minister Payne added, “We are continuing to work with Qantas on further flights to assist Australians who are still [in Peru], and also just trying to facilitate internal travel for Australians who are in more remote and isolated parts of Peru to come to the city centres – to come into Lima, to Cusco, so that they are able to access those flights.
“I expect to have more information from my department, from Qantas, on those in the coming days.”
The previous flight to Peru landed in Sydney on Tuesday, but reports quickly emerged of the travel operator charging enormous prices for a basic ticket.
People left behind are at risk. Mentally and physically. Especially those who are alone. Ironic that this situation has arisen as we are trying to stop people becoming unwell… And it’s shameful that $ determines who can go home. Utterly.
— Dean Mundey (@DeanMundey) March 29, 2020
It’s unclear whether the Australian government will reimburse travellers. A further flight is expected to land in Uruguay on Wednesday.
Given 273 economy seats at $5,160, and 21 biz class seats at $10,872 the flight grossed $1,636,992. A tidy bit of coin for so-called humanitarian repatriation flight!
— Matthew Ryan (@mattieryan) March 29, 2020
On March 20, Australian Aviation reported that Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce pledged to maintain a handful of international flights beyond the business’ March grounding to return stranded Australians home.
Speaking to ABC’s Leigh Sales, Joyce said, “We’re just going through those details with the government at the moment. There could be some international operations that will go past the end of March.”
In the last two weeks, it’s become far harder for Australians in Europe and the US to travel back.
Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Singapore have suspended airport transit, while British Airways has cancelled all flights to Australia from after 6 April.
The airline previously had a deal to refuel in Singapore to make the journey possible, but without giving passengers the chance to temporarily leave the aircraft to stretch their legs.
Now, only Qatar is providing flights between London and Sydney.