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Government to fund 100 more Qantas 787 repatriations

written by Adam Thorn | May 12, 2021
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND Emily Kame Kngwarreye at Alice Springs. (Qantas/James Morgan)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND Emily Kame Kngwarreye at Alice Springs. (Qantas/James Morgan)

The government has committed to funding another 100 Qantas repatriation flights over the next year.

The flag carrier has been using its 787 Dreamliners for the missions, which have a capacity to carry around 170 passengers each, meaning 17,000 more stranded Australians can return.

Tuesday night’s federal budget revealed the new flights will form part of a $119.9 million boost to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s consular program, which will include money for 46 additional staff.

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The expansion, set to roll out over “the coming months”, coincides with the Howard Springs quarantine facility planning to double its capacity, from 850 to 2,000 per fortnight.

Howard Springs first took in large numbers of international travellers in October 2020 when it initially expanded its capacity.

The budget also revealed 18,800 Australians have flown home on 127 government-sponsored flights, out of a total of 45,400 returnees, most of whom would have flown with commercial airlines such as Qatar.

The news comes after Australia’s arrival caps in February returned to their previously higher December 2020 levels, which were cut at the start of 2021 following a second COVID cluster in Sydney. It meant NSW returned to its weekly cap of 3,000 and Queensland to 1,000.

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The January temporary cuts formed part of the biggest overhaul of the quarantine program since its inception, and also included a provision for passengers to wear masks on all domestic and international flights; for hotel staff to be tested daily and for ex-pats to require a negative result before boarding a repatriation flight.

Arrival caps were introduced in July and sat at 4,000, before increasing to 6,500 at the end of 2020 and then decreasing to just over 4,000 in January 2021.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated that repatriation flights from India will continue after the temporary ban expires on 15 May.

PM Morrison was able to confirm the plans after a meeting with state premiers, indicating that as many as six flights could take place this month.

Last week, the federal government paused all flights from India, halting eight repatriations, and then made it a formal crime for anyone to attempt the trip, punishable with a $66,000 fine. It’s led to one 73-year-old Australian man in India launching a legal challenge to the decision.

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8 Comments

  • AgentGerko

    says:

    A QF 787 carries 236 pax unless for some reason they’re keeping the Business and Premium Economy seats empty which would seem a waste.

  • DM

    says:

    definition of ‘too little too late’ here

    • David

      says:

      I totally agree. So many Aussies have been left abandoned overseas for way too long. Meanwhile tennis players, celebrities and other “A listers” have been able to come and go inro Australia.

      I have a fmaily member stuck in Asian since February last year….no consultate help, no financial assistance….zero.

      This person IS an AUSTRALIAN CITIZEN.

      Do we need to remind the government that they actually work for the Citizens of Australia? We could have mobilised the RAAF and NAVY as we the citizens also pay for this to bring home as many of our countrymen as we can. Instead, basically we have left them to their own devices.

      I am seriously disappointed with how the Australian Government and embassy / foreign affairs have NOT handled this….its a disgrace.

      • Anthony

        says:

        Totally agree. DFAT have failed us. Ask the Navy or Air force to oversee the repatiation of Ctizens and their families

        There is much much more they could do.

        Allow expats to undertake pre flight supervised quarantine offshore. Test, Vaccinate, Quarantine, Test Again then fly safely home. Full pane load of passengers.

        The one size fits all approach is not working. Each country should be assessed for the risks involved and more Australians should be allowed to fly home. Howard Springs is not the solution. Maybe from high risk countries.

        The main condition os that passengers undertake quarantine offshore prior to boarding the flight.

        Priority given to passengers who have been in the country of depaeture for three months or more. This could be arrange in conjunction with the Airline ticket. No quarantine no flight.

  • Marc Baggins

    says:

    Adam, when the government says they are funding repatriation flights, what are they funding? These flights are generally still quite expensive to get a ticket on.
    Additionally, why only 170 pax? There is very little evidence of transmission on flights so why not increase capacity if a negative pcr test is required for boarding the flight?

  • Louise Wiles

    says:

    I had the same thought Marc Baggins. With an economy seats costing over $2000 ONE WAY on these flights ($2151 on most recent flight from Istanbul), it isn’t obvious what the government is actually funding. If these ticket prices don’t cover operational costs, no airline would ever be in business. The government’s use of the word is most probably quite a stretch and they are just political point grabbing. I say there needs to be more transparency there.

  • Pork Hunt

    says:

    They are NOT FUNDING!
    We are charged $3000 per seat then another $3000 to quarantine. Shame on you Australia.

  • Anthony

    says:

    Allow expats to undertake pre flight supervised quarantine offshore. Test, Vaccinate, Quarantine, Test Aisn then fly safely home. Full pane load of passengers. The one size fits all approach is not working. Each country should be assessed for the risks involved and more Australians should be allowed to fly home.

    The main condtition that they undertake quarntine offshore prior to boarding the flight. Priority given to passengers who have been in the country of depature for three months or more. This could be arrange in conjunction with the Airline ticket. No quarantine no flight.

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