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80 Brisbane flights cancelled as city locks down

written by Adam Thorn | March 30, 2021
NEW RUNWAY @ BNE OPENS - VH-YFW - 1272020 737800 (Craig Murray)
A Virgin Australia 737-800 becomes the first commercial flight out of Brisbane Airport’s new runway, VH-YFW on 12/7/2020 (Craig Murray)

Nearly 80 flights to and from Brisbane Airport was cancelled on Tuesday as the city went into its first day of a snap lockdown.

It came as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed eight new local cases of the British variant of COVID were recorded.

The shutdown of Brisbane, announced yesterday, led to Victoria, WA, SA and the NT all effectively closing their borders to the state. The timing has been a huge blow for the domestic aviation industry, which is transitioning away from JobKeeper support to a new package offering passengers half-price tickets to stimulate demand.

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On Tuesday, 45 flights departing Brisbane, and 34 due to be arriving, were cancelled, with both Virgin and Qantas yet to make an official announcement on how its capacity will change moving forward.

Victoria’s acting Premier, James Merlino, also said on Tuesday morning his state’s border were unlikely to open as soon as the lockdown ends, raising fears of a lengthy shut out. The state has declared Greater Brisbane a “red zone” under its travel permit system.

That means non-residents are not allowed to enter Victoria without an exemption and residents must apply for a special permit. Those who return must self-quarantine for 14 days.

However, Merlino said he hoped his rules would only apply to Greater Brisbane, and not extended to the rest of the state.

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“It’s the five municipalities within Greater Brisbane, as well as Gladstone and Byron as an orange zone,” Merlino said. “So we’ve been quite targeted, reflecting the decisions that Queensland public health authorities have made and other states are doing the same thing.”

Destination Gold Coast chief executive Patricia O’Callaghan said his area would be taking each day as it comes.

“Our message to every Australian out there, and there’s a lot of you who have booked a holiday to the Gold Coast: hold on to it,” O’Callaghan said.

Queensland Airports chief executive Chris Mills also pointed out that, during Brisbane’s earlier lockdown, the Gold Coast maintained much of its tourism.

“Flights were still coming in and out of Gold Coast Airport and in fact, in January, Melbourne to Gold Coast was the busiest route in the country,” he said.

Of Queensland’s eight new local cases, six are close contacts of confirmed cases with the other two under investigation.

The developments come a day after Premier Palaszczuk revealed Greater Brisbane would go into a three-day lockdown from 5pm on Monday in response to four new locally acquired cases of COVID.

Previously, both the Australian Airports Association (AAA) and Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ) industry groups said the half-price ticket plan would only work if state premiers kept borders open.

“Once the half-price airfares go on sale on 1 April, the first phase of the government’s vaccination program should be complete, which means there should be no reason for states and territories to close their borders,” said AAA chief executive James Goodwin. “In order for this support package to work, the premiers must agree to put an end to these knee-jerk reactions which have resulted in major setbacks for our sector’s recovery.”

A4ANZ chairman Graeme Samuel said the “lack of consistency” on borders had eroded confidence.

“The announcement of an incentive-based program to stimulate air travel demand and support the broader tourism sector will need to be matched by a unified approach on domestic borders,” said Samuel.

Current border restrictions are:

  • Victoria has declared Greater Brisbane (City of Brisbane, City of Ipswich, Logan City, Moreton Bay Region, Redlands City) a “red zone” under Victoria’s travel permit system. That means non-residents are not allowed to enter Victoria without an exemption and residents must apply for a special permit. Those who return must self-quarantine for 14 days;
  • WA reintroduced a hard border for travel from Queensland from midnight on Monday. Queensland has now moved from a low to high-risk area, meaning nobody, including residents, can enter without obtaining a permit;
  • NSW has introduced no new rules. However, anyone who’s in NSW now but who has been in Greater Brisbane since 20 March must comply with Brisbane’s lockdown rules. Premier Berejiklian has recommended residents don’t travel to Greater Brisbane during the busy Easter period. “We recommend people who were considering going to Greater Brisbane: change your plans,” she said. “And also, consider changing your plans if you were travelling anywhere in Queensland because we understand there have been some cases or potential cases outside of Greater Brisbane and throughout broader Queensland.”;
  • The Northern Territory has declared several regions hotspots with all travellers to the Territory from these areas required to go into supervised quarantine. Ipswich, Logan, Redlands, Moreton, Toowoomba and Brisbane council areas are now official hotspots;
  • A imposed a hard border from 4pm, meaning only SA residents can enter the state, and those that do must complete 14 days of quarantine;
  • The ACT has said only non-residents with an exemption can enter. Residents who returned from greater Brisbane from 15 March need to self-isolate until at least 6:00pm on 1 April. This may be extended to 14 days.

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