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Final India repatriation lands in Darwin

written by Adam Thorn | November 30, 2020
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND, operating the inaugural QF9 from Perth, taxis to the gate at London Heathrow. (Qantas)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND, operating the inaugural QF9 from Perth, taxis to the gate at London Heathrow. (Qantas)

The last of four government-supplemented Indian repatriation flights departed from India on Friday and landed in Darwin the next day.

Around 180 passengers are now undertaking 14 days of isolation at the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

The Boeing 787-9, VH-ZND msn 63390, departed Delhi at 6:38pm on 27 November as flight QF112 and landed at Darwin at 7:27am on Saturday.

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The government supplemented London-Darwin flights were made possible after the federal government increased the capacity of the NT’s quarantine facility.

The use of the Howard Springs facility essentially adds another 250 spaces per week onto the nation’s controversial arrival caps, which stand at slightly over 6,000.

Critics have argued the arrival caps have hindered Australians’ ability to return home by reducing availability and increasing prices. Restrictions were first introduced in July to regulate the flow of people arriving into government quarantine facilities and have been extended multiple times.

The flight from India is reported to have cost $1,000 for a ticket alongside a $2,500 charge for the time spent in isolation. Previously, 787-9s have taken those from India home on 26 October, 10 November and 23 November. The four India flights compare to three from London and one from South Africa.

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The government has also confirmed flights from France and Germany will follow in December, though it’s not yet known how many or if they will be flying into Darwin.

On Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told a Senate committee it was “working through the logistics” of scheduling more flights to return Australians home.

“We haven’t yet announced from where they will come but they will be announced shortly,” DFAT’s Tony Sheehan said. “And we will have some further flights scheduled immediately after Christmas.”

Last week, Australian Aviation reported how the industry body representing international carriers said most airlines stopped selling tickets to stranded Australians “months ago” due to the country’s international arrival caps.

The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) has predicted that more than 10,000 of those who have registered to return will be left overseas by the end of 2020 – with the actual number attempting to get back far higher.

“There have been welcome increases in the total permitted arrivals each week, including the planned initial re-opening of Melbourne Airport, bringing permitted arrivals into the major capital city airports to about 6,000 per week from early December,” said the organisation in a statement. “It is not enough, however, to meet the demand that exists.”

BARA, which has made numerous interventions over the last few months, said official waiting lists don’t tell the whole picture of how many Australians are stranded abroad. It has previously estimated the actual figure to be as high as 100,000.

“The number of Australians overseas seeking to return home before the end of 2020 but now without an option to do so far exceeds the immediate waiting list of at least 10,000,” BARA said.

“This is because to meet the tight international passenger arrival caps, which were implemented with very short notice, many international airlines were forced to stop selling tickets some months ago.

“This means that the estimated immediate waiting list of 10,000 Australians overseas after airlines have booked flights to the permitted caps, does not include those who have been unable to book a ticket or join a waiting list”

The industry group again called for Australia to allocate domestic quarantine hotel rooms to overseas arrivals when more domestic borders reopen.

“Based on the data available to BARA, the re-opening of domestic borders could permit an additional 2,000 international arrivals each week through the reallocation of domestic quarantine capacity to international arrivals,” said executive director Barry Abrams.

A full list of completed ‘second-batch’ Qantas repatriations are as follows:

LONDON

The first flight from the UK was a Boeing 787-9, VH-ZND msn 63390, which left Heathrow as flight QF110 at 11:54am on Thursday, 22 October and landed in Darwin at 11:53am the next day, with no stops.

The second was a Boeing 787-9, VH-ZNK msn 66075, which left Heathrow on 7 November as flight QF110 at 11:48am and landed the next day at 1:03pm with no stops.

Finally, a Boeing 787-9, VH-ZNK msn 66075, left Heathrow on 11 November as flight QF110 at 9:05am and arrived the next day at 10:38am with no stops.

INDIA

A Boeing 787-9, VH-ZNC msn 39040, departed Delhi at 9:13pm on 26 October as flight QF112 and landed at Darwin at 9:46am on Tuesday.

A Boeing 787-9, VH-ZNC msn 39040, departed Delhi at 8:26pm on 10 November as flight QF112 and landed at Darwin at 9:12am the next day.

A Boeing 787-9, VH-ZNC msn 39040, departed Delhi at 6:42pm on 23 November as flight QF112 and landed at Darwin at 7:14am the next day.

The Boeing 787-9, VH-ZND msn 63390, departed Delhi at 6:38pm on 27 November as flight QF112 and landed at Darwin at 7:27am on Saturday.

SOUTH AFRICA

A Boeing 787-9, VH-ZND msn 63390, departed Johannesburg at 6:25pm on 13 November as flight QF114 and landed in Perth the next day at 8:55am.

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