The industry body representing international airlines has warned that processes are still not in place to allow for a large-scale restart of commercial travel.
The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) said there has been “limited engagement” with governments to adapt COVID mitigation measures to accommodate more than a handful of arrivals at airports.
It comes days after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian signalled the state could hugely increase its caps at Sydney Airport when 80 per cent of Australians have been double vaccinated.
In a new statement, BARA said, “The extensive and complex processes now in place at airports allow for a very small number of international passengers and flights each day.
“Any substantive increase in international flights and passengers is not possible under current operating requirements.
“Pre-pandemic, airlines operated some 2,000 international flights to and from Australia each week, providing air transport services to over 850,000 passengers. International airlines now operate about 13 commercial international passenger flights a day into Sydney Airport, down from over 110 per day. These 13 daily flights carry only about 215 passengers in total, which will reduce to some 108 per day from 8 September.
“Member airlines report that it is not unusual for it to take an hour to clear an international flight at the airport, even though the flight only has about 25 passengers. The extensive and complex arrangements used to hotel quarantine passengers and aircrew on arrival will need to be greatly simplified and streamlined to support more international flights and passengers.
“Vaccination and testing requirements provide the opportunity to move from state authorities directly managing passengers and aircrew to a set of clearly defined expectations and operating practices, which will require far fewer government resources.
“However, BARA is unaware of any planning documents that contemplate how the processes for passengers and aircrew will be simplified and streamlined, which are necessary for a restart to international travel. Work on this needs to occur quickly to allow greater travel options later this year.”
BARA added that the organisation and its airlines “remain open and committed to working with governments to support their efforts in managing COVID-19 safely”.
It comes after the organisation in May warned there was no “known plan” for reopening the borders, arguing “confusion remains”.
Earlier this week, Premier Berejiklian said she wanted all Australians to be “home for Christmas” and said she couldn’t understate why other states were walking away from a plan to relax restrictions when vaccine milestones are hit.
“We want Australians reunited with their families at Christmas time,” she said. “My absolute goal and dream is to have every Australian home for Christmas, whether it’s Aussies within Australia visiting loved ones, or Aussies overseas coming back home.
“While 70 per cent double dose gives those of us vaccinated freedoms, 80 per cent double dose allows us to look at international travel, welcoming home all Australians.
“It would be disappointing if NSW and Victorian residents were able to go overseas before they can go interstate.”