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Groundings take effect as Australia’s skies empty

written by Adam Thorn | April 7, 2020

Last year, 64 international airlines flew over Australia’s airspace, operating 634,000 trips.

But now the skies are almost empty – as shown in these startling images from Flightradar24.

A Saturday afternoon in February 2018 (Flightradar24)

These pictures show the scene on a typical Saturday afternoon in February 2018 versus the scene at the same time and day in April 2020.

A Saturday afternoon in April 2020 (Flightradar24)

Meanwhile, these images were taken on Tuesday, 7 April over the skies of Sydney and Melbourne.

The scene above Sydney on the afternoon of 7 April (Flightradar24)

As March came to an end, Qantas, Virgin and the majority of international airlines paused nearly all of their international flights.

The scene above Melbourne on the afternoon of 7 April (Flightradar24)


There are, though, some signs of life.

Qatar remains one of the few airlines to be committed to soldiering on throughout the crisis.

The airline will add an extra 48,000 seats on services from Doha to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane from 29 March until mid-April.

And on 6 April, the government announced it had struck a deal with Qantas and Virgin to resume limited repatriation flights to Australia from London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Auckland.

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Comments (7)

  • Hi Adam,
    This is very interesting.could you source a map of flights in February 2020 , showing the thickness of the routes flown. Eg I would expect the Sydney – Melbourne corridor to be very thick, but the Broome -Alice Springs to be very thin.
    Then compare that with March April 2020 and I expect that Sydney -China will be very sparce compared with the February flights

    Then I will super impose the spread of the corona virus which may mirror the February airlines map.
    Like the spread of AIDS , the lesson to be learned from epidemics / pandemics is that unless a vaccine is available immediately, then Governments must close their borders. This can be done best by democracies with a unicameral system of Government like NZ , or a dictatorship like Singapore. The worst situation is a government in denial like Japan, or a poor nation without the facilities for testing , or without rich neighbours prepared to help,
    Migrant 8.4.20

  • Federico


    The earth and the environment say thank you!

  • Michael Andrew


    Who’s idea was it to exempt Qantas crews from COVID 19 quarantine, what other little gems have we not been told?
    Who made this call? Whoever did, please supply your name and contact details, so that I personally register my dissatisfaction, colourful language WILL be used!!
    We are all may be in this together, just like a marriage? But not until the death us do part bit!!!

  • Don Mcdonald


    many of the airborne aircraft are freighters (or carrying freight) together with many (advanced) flying training light aircraft

  • Doug


    Interesting that the Arab countries continue to operate to and from Australia, incl Qatar Airlines and Qantas’ code share partner Emirates (https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/emirates-to-ground-nearly-all-passenger-flights-will-still-fly-to-australia-20200323-p54cu9.html) while Qantas gets pretty much grounded. There is obviously more to this than I have information on that might explain this, but in the meantime, one can’t help but wonder why Qantas didn’t retain a share of some these routes for the duration.

  • toby


    The worldwide pilot shortage is finally self-healing.

  • Marum


    Most national carriers in the world, are usually fully or part Government funded. Last time I looked. Qantas was one of the few that wasn’t.

    This may explain why some of the “oil-rich countries national carriers can keep flying on marginal or even nil profits. I will have to check, and bring my data up to date. Last time I checked was ten years ago. Thus I have no information on Chinese airlines.
    Current Government-owned airlines
    Airline Country Stake
    Abu Dhabi Amiri Flight United Arab Emirates
    Aeroflot Russian Federation As of March 2020: 51%[1]
    Aerogaviota Cuba 100%[citation needed]
    Aerolíneas Argentinas Argentina As of December 2014: 100% [2]
    Afriqiyah Airways Libya [3]
    Air Algérie Algeria As of December 2013: 100%[4]
    Air Botswana Botswana 100%[citation needed]
    Air Calédonie New Caledonia (France) 52.45%[citation needed]
    Air China China 53.46%[5]
    Air Côte d’Ivoire Ivory Coast As of April 2017: 58%[6]
    Air Djibouti
    Air Gabon
    Air Greenland
    Air Guinée
    Air India
    Air Ivoire
    Air Jamaica
    Air Kiribati
    Air Koryo
    Air Liberia
    Air Macau
    Air Madagascar
    Air Malawi
    Air Malta
    Air Mauritius
    Air Namibia
    Air New Zealand As of March 2020: 52%[7]
    Air Niger
    Air Niugini
    Air Rwanda
    Air Sénégal International
    Air Serbia
    Air Seychelles
    Air Tanzania
    Air Vanuatu
    Air Zaïre
    Air Zimbabwe
    Ariana Afghan Airlines
    Azerbaijan Airlines
    Berkut Air
    Biman Bangladesh Airlines
    Boliviana de Aviación
    Cambodia Angkor Air
    Cameroon Airlines
    Caribbean Airlines
    Cayman Airways
    China Airlines
    Croatia Airlines
    Cubana de Aviación
    Czech Airlines
    Druk Air
    Dubai Royal Air Wing
    Ecuato Guineana
    Eritrean Airlines
    Ethiopian Airlines
    Etihad Airways
    Eurocypria Airlines
    Fiji Airways
    Gambia International Airlines
    Garuda Indonesia
    Ghana Airways
    Guine Bissau Airlines
    Heli Air Monaco [8][9]
    Iran Air
    Iraqi Airways
    Kenya Airways
    Kuwait Airways
    LAM Mozambique Airlines
    Lao Airlines
    Libyan Airlines
    Lina Congo
    LOT Polish Airlines
    Malaysia Airlines
    Mandarin Airlines
    Merpati Nusantara Airlines
    MIAT Mongolian Airlines
    Middle East Airlines
    Myanmar National Airlines
    Myanmar Airways International
    Nauru Airlines
    Nepal Airlines
    Nigeria Airways
    Oman Air
    Pakistan International Airlines
    Qatar Airways
    Qatar Amiri Flight
    Qatar Executive
    RAM Cargo
    Régie Malagache
    Royal Air Lao
    Royal Air Maroc
    Royal Brunei Airlines
    Royal Jordanian
    Royal Swazi National Airways
    Royal Tongan Airlines
    Saratov Airlines
    Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
    Sierra National Airlines
    Singapore Airlines
    Singapore Airlines Cargo
    Solomon Airlines
    South African Airways
    South African Express
    SriLankan Airlines
    Sudan Airways
    Surinam Airways
    TAAG Angola Airlines
    TANS Perú
    TAP Portugal As of 2015: 50%
    Thai Airways International
    Toumaï Air Tchad
    Turkmenistan Airlines
    Turkish Airlines
    Uganda Airlines
    Uzbekistan Airways
    Vietnam Airlines Vietnam Vietnam 86.10%[10]
    Yemenia Yemen Yemen 51.00%[11]

    List of Former Government-owned airlines
    This is a list of airlines which were formerly government owned. They have since been privatized or have ceased operations.

    List of Former Government-owned airlines
    This is a list of airlines which were formerly government owned. They have since been privatized or have ceased operations.

    This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
    Airline Country End of Government Ownership Fate
    Aero Caribbean Cuba Cuba 2015 Merged into Cubana[12]
    Air Bissau Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau 1998 Liquidated[13]
    Air Burundi Burundi Burundi 2009 Ceased Operations[14]
    Air Mali (1960-89) Mali Mali 1989 Shut Down[15]
    Lufthansa Germany Germany 1994 Privatized[16]
    Norfolk Air (collapsed) Australia Australia 2011 Ceased Operations[17]
    Qantas Australia Australia 1992 Privatized[18]
    Ukrainian Cargo Airways Ukraine Ukraine 2009 Shut Down[19]
    Zambia Airways Zambia Zambia 1994 Ceased Operations


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