Brisbane Airport’s chief executive has said he’s “quietly confident” commercial international flights could return by Christmas.
However, Gert-Jan de Graaff also warned if Queensland waits too long to allow cap-free travel then airlines would take their business elsewhere. “That would be terrible for Queenslanders,” he said.
The national plan agreed by all states and territories would see international travel resume when 80 per cent double vaccination has been reached, though Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has since cast doubt on whether even interstate borders would open then.
Speaking to the Brisbane Times, de Graaff said, “Given we expect to hit the 80 per cent double-vaccination milestone in early December, we are quietly confident of a return of some services by Christmas.”
Brisbane Airport is currently welcoming up to 80 international passenger flights a week, but tough arrival caps mean only around 1,000 citizens are allowed to return. If Queensland were to allow home quarantine, an additional 14,500 could arrive on just the existing schedules alone.
“Outbound bookings have increased for the period from mid-December onwards, but many people are still holding off booking until there is clarity on the quarantine requirements when they return to Australia,” he said.
“If hotel quarantine for 14 days is required, then it will be a demand killer.”
de Graaff has continually urged governments to do more to restart travel and in July warned international airlines “may well leave Australia behind” as vaccinated nations begin to remove COVID restrictions now.
“Policies must be put in place to ensure Australia’s connectivity to the world is protected,” he said.
“We are eager to see the vaccination rates of Australians increase as soon as possible and move towards the ‘Consolidation Phase’ of the National Plan so we can allow vaccinated Australians to travel again, and vaccinated visitors to come to Australia.”
It comes as NSW’s tourism minister, Stuart Ayres, suggested at the weekend that international travel could resume in Sydney as early as the end of this month.
Currently, the state has committed to switching hotel for home quarantine to restart commercial flights when it hits 80 per cent double dose vaccinations, but no firm start date has been announced.
Qantas has scheduled flights to London to begin on 14 November, but said the exact date could be moved forward or back.
Speaking on Sunday, Ayres said, “I think it’s a really good objective to be looking at the end of October or early November as an opportunity where we can start to see caps either removed or substantially lifted for fully vaccinated people.
“My very clear expectation is for unvaccinated people or people who do not have a TGA-recognised vaccine, those caps will stay in place and quarantine in some form will stay for those people.”
His comments follow similar hints at the weekend by both new NSW premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Perrottet said he wanted international travel to resume “as quickly as possible” and said Australia can’t “live as a hermit kingdom on the other side of the world”.
“If people are double vaccinated it makes complete sense for them to return to Australia in better settings than being cramped up in a hotel for two weeks,” he said.
Morrison meanwhile said the federal government would look to “fast-track” the process of resuming flights into NSW.