Greater Brisbane has lifted its lockdown in a huge boost to the government’s half-price tickets plan, which formally launched on Thursday.
It followed NSW also announcing no new cases of COVID despite recording one the day before in Byron Bay near the Queensland border.
Domestic aviation has been pinning its recovery hopes on the federal government’s plan to supplement 800,000 half-price airfares for passengers to 15 destinations including the Gold Coast, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island. It follows the end of JobKeeper last week.
Speaking on Thursday morning, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the lockdown would lift at midday after the state recorded just one new case of community transmission.
“Easter is good to go,” she said. “I understand a lot of families in Greater Brisbane have made plans and the last thing we want to see are accidents on our roads at 5:00pm this afternoon and into the evening.”
Premier Palaszczuk did though announce a slight increase in restrictions, which will require residents wear masks indoors and a limit of indoor gatherings to 30.
The good news came shortly before NSW announced no new local infections across the state, too.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian even stated she was not “not overly concerned” about the possibility of new cases because of the state’s good record on contact tracing.
“As far as NSW is concerned, we always have open borders,” Premier Berejiklian told the Today program. “Our citizens should never feel they can’t come back home. The only thing we ask is if you come back from an area which has lots of cases … then you personally have to stay in your home for three days and respect that lockdown.
“People don’t have to do that 14-day quarantine, we think that’s silly. We would urge other states to keep their borders open.
“In terms of travelling, you’re allowed to go anywhere as far as NSW citizens are concerned but obviously if Brisbane remains in lockdown, we don’t recommend that.”
Today marks the launch of the government’s new initiative with Virgin announcing fares from just $55 between Melbourne-Launceston and Jetstar offering tickets from just $32 between Adelaide and Avalon.
The updated list of destinations now includes Cairns, Townsville, Whitsunday Coast/Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and the Gold Coast.
The fares are on sale until the end of July for travel until the end of September, with discounts applied automatically.
Both airline groups have also topped up the 15 locations with sales to other destinations and also extended fare flexibility in light of recent uncertainty.
Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka played down the recent Brisbane lockdown, referring to it as a short-term constraint.
“These half-priced fares will support jobs and the nation’s economic recovery over the next six months,” she said. “There’s never been a better time to plan and get on with travelling around Australia.”
Qantas domestic CEO Andrew David also referred to the latest local lockdown as a “temporary setback” and said the vaccine rollout would soon make restrictions a thing of the past.
“Almost every destination that Qantas and Jetstar flies to is on sale, including plenty of chances to grab half price fares as part of the government’s tourism stimulus package,” said David.
“Most fares are outside peak times, which is when these regions need more tourists to visit. They mean more people will stay in hotels, go to restaurants, and book tours and they also mean we can get more of our people back to work.”
Qantas revealed there was a 75 per cent spike in visits to its website and a 40 per cent spike in bookings immediately after the announcement earlier in March.
The package of measures to support aviation in Australia also includes a new wage subsidy for those working in international aviation; cheap loans to small business coming off JobKeeper; and a six-month extension of the ‘RANS’ and ‘DANS’ supplemented routes initiative.
However, on Thursday, the Australian Tourism Industry Council the package of measures must go further.
“The Morrison government must invest more in domestic discount air seats, which are marketable to all destinations including every capital city, to bring confidence to interstate travel,” said the organisation’s executive director, Simon Westaway.
“All capitals and our entire domestic flight network need to be eligible for discount fares through the government’s Tourism Aviation Network Support Program to help reset our industry.
“Ongoing border restrictions require further targeted federal financial assistance to still struggling tourism businesses until the risks of the virus outbreak are reduced by the vaccine rollout.
“Australia’s national COVID-19 vaccine rollout must be sped up. We urge for a greater focus on immediately vaccinating key workers including front-line health, hotel quarantine and at airports.”
Westaway also said 38 per cent of Australian tourism businesses are cutting jobs and reducing workforce hours to stay viable.
Jetstar sale fares include:
- Adelaide-Avalon from $32* (Half Off Flights sale)
- Sydney-Gold Coast from $44* (Half Off Flights sale)
- Melbourne-Launceston from $40* (Half Off Flights sale)
- Melbourne-Newcastle from $45* (Jetstar sale)
- Melbourne-Sydney from $49* (Jetstar sale)
- Sydney-Perth from $109* (Jetstar sale)
Qantas sale fares include:
- Adelaide-Melbourne from $88* (Half Off Flights sale)
- Sydney-Sunshine Coast from $92* (Half Off Flights sale)
- Canberra-Gold Coast from $95* (Half Off Flights sale)
- Sydney-Melbourne from $99* (Qantas sale)
- Melbourne-Newcastle from $109* (Qantas sale)
- Sydney-Coffs Harbour from $109* (Qantas sale)