Emirates will resume passenger flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane a week after announcing it was suspending the routes.
The carrier hinted the original decision was due to the problems caused by new quarantine rules for staff rather than the national cabinet’s lowering of arrival caps, as initially thought.
In December, NSW changed the rules so that crews from non-Australian airlines will have to stay in two police-supervised hotels. Victoria has followed with similar new restrictions.
The old restrictions allowed airline employees to self-isolate at a designated location approved by the airline, so long as details were also shared with authorities. Crews could catch a taxi to their accommodation, providing they sat in the back and wore a mask.
On Thursday night, Emirates said it would restart Sydney flights from 25 January, Melbourne flights from 26 January, and Brisbane flights from 28 January.
“The pandemic has made international flying incredibly challenging, and the dynamic restrictions and requirements implemented by the different state authorities in Australia had added complexity and burden to our operations. This led us to temporarily suspend passenger services while we engaged with various stakeholders regarding crew protocols and other operational details,” Emirates said.
“Following this engagement, we’ve made the decision to resume services with adjustments to our operations, so that we can continue serving our customers.
“All our crew (cabin crew and pilots) operating on Australian flights were already mandated to take a PCR test 48 hours prior to the scheduled flight departure from Dubai. With the latest adjustments, these tests will be administered in their homes, and our crew will also observe self-quarantine in their homes from the moment of testing until their flight.
“Combined with the hotel quarantine and tests on arrival in Australia, this effectively means that our crew are in a bubble from 48 hours before their flight, until they return to Dubai.
“This is an added burden for our crew as individuals, for our rostering, and operating costs, and therefore this decision was made after careful review and consideration.
“We are grateful that our wonderful crew teams are very understanding and supportive, which has enabled us to quickly restart passenger services.”
The move to tighten restrictions came after NSW Police fined 13 airline crew members $1,000 each for allegedly visiting local businesses when they should have been isolating.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian defended the old guidance in December, arguing that procedures are a “very complex set of circumstances”.
“The issue isn’t the guidelines that we have in place, it’s, unfortunately, a few occasions where people have breached the guidelines, or actually chose not to self-isolate when they should have,” Premier Berejiklian said.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard argued that the situation was not clear cut, as the mental health of those arriving had to be considered. He also said it was important too stringent rules didn’t discourage airlines from repatriating Australians abroad.
“We actually don’t want them to say, ‘We aren’t flying into NSW’,” said Minister Hazzard. “We want them to continue flying freight and Aussies coming home.”