The industry body representing international airlines has warned its members will have no choice but to stop flying to Australia if arrival caps aren’t increased.
In a hardening of its position, the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) said on Wednesday afternoon that its members “cannot be expected” to “continue indefinitely with such flights on a commercial basis”.
“A target average of at least 100 passengers per arriving flight, while still difficult financially, is far better than 30 or less,” added BARA executive director Barry Abrams.
The organisation’s third statement in short succession comes days after it argued the government should allow flexibility on quarantine for those who arrive from areas with fewer COVID-19 cases. It has previously said it would take its members six months to return all citizens stranded abroad if the current cap system wasn’t relaxed.
The restrictions limiting the number of Australians who could fly home at any one time were first introduced in July to regulate the flow of people arriving into government quarantine facilities and have been extended multiple times. Critics have argued that decision has stopped Australians abroad being able to return home by reducing availability and increasing prices.
BARA revealed that, during the first week of September, some 87 per cent of 30,000 seats on flights into Australia remained empty. It’s pushing for the cap to increase to a target average of 100 passengers a flight.
It has also pushed against flights landing at smaller airports.
“It’s clear Australians overseas seeking to return home need better help, and the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia considers the best way to do so is to increase the arrival caps into the major capital city airports,” said Abrams.
“Additional quarantine capacity for international flights at secondary international airports might not be commercially viable for airlines and hence not help Australians stranded overseas.
“BARA and the international airlines are unaware of any firm proposals to increase the number of Australians who can return home in a more orderly manner. International airlines remain willing to engage with governments if asked to do so in supporting better outcomes for Australians overseas.”
In its previous release to Australian Aviation, BARA argued the solution to the problem is to both increase capacity in hotels and allow flexibility on quarantine for those who arrive from areas with fewer COVID-19 cases.
“A transparent framework for assessing risk and how to reduce it would make conditions clearer and more certain for passengers and industry,” Abrams argued. “If risk mitigation options other than mandatory quarantine were acceptable for Australians returning from some countries, this would free up quarantine capacity for passengers returning from countries where COVID-19 risks are higher.”