Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has accused the Victorian government of double standards by allowing sports stars to fly in for the Australian Open despite keeping borders shut to Sydney.
He said it was “bizarre” to allow people to fly from countries where “the virus is raging” but not from the NSW capital where community transmission is “extremely low”.
More than 70,000 Victorians are thought to be stuck on the wrong side of the hard border and are attempting to get home via the new “traffic light” hotspot system.
In a statement released on Friday, Joyce said he had to cancel almost 3,000 flights between Melbourne and Sydney since the border closure on 20 December.
“Behind each of those cancelled flights are a lot of people whose plans have been thrown up in the air,” he said. “Family they’re not going to see, events they’ll miss and homes they can’t get back to.
“Victoria’s approach to Sydney seems to be out of proportion with the actual risk. And that makes it hard to reconcile the decision to allow over 1,000 people in from overseas for the Australian Open from countries where the virus is raging.
“But – at the same time – to deny people who actually live in the state the right to return with some basic precautions that reflect the extremely low level of community transmission in Sydney, is bizarre at a policy level and devastating at a social level.
“If we can find a way to let these players in from high risk areas, why can’t we find a way to let Victorians in from what are by global standards extremely low risk areas.”
The Victorian government has said those arriving for the competition will be subject to the “strictest program in the world”.
The grand slam is scheduled to start on 8 February and last until 21 February, with 15 charter flights bringing 1,200 players, support staff and tennis officials to Melbourne this week. All officials will spend 14 days in hotel quarantine, but players can leave quarantine after just two days to attend training as long as they test negative.
Each dedicated hotel will also have its own training facility, which players can use for five hours a day.
“This event is very important to our city and our state,” Premier Andrews said earlier this week. “It is worth going to these unprecedented measures to be sure it goes ahead.”
Already, former two-time Wimbledon winner Andrew Murray has been unable to fly, as he tested positive earlier this week.
Joyce’s attack comes despite Qantas reportedly being in discussion with Premier Andrews to potentially move some or all of its headquarters to the state.