Qantas boss Alan Joyce has revealed that Australian passengers will still need to undergo at least four COVID tests, as well as be fully vaccinated, when flying the airline internationally.
Speaking to journalists at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting, Joyce revealed a few new details on what the future of travelling internationally will look like for Australians.
Joyce said that passengers will generally be required to complete a pre-flight COVID test both before leaving Australia and prior to their return flight, as well as complete two additional tests during their seven-day home quarantine stay, on top of being fully vaccinated.
It is currently unclear what the protocol will be for passengers who contract the virus while on their travels, and if they will be unable to board any, or certain, flights back to Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed late last week that international borders will reopen for double-jabbed Australian citizens and residents once the country reaches the 80 per cent vaccination target, and a seven-day home quarantine requirement will be introduced, instead of hotel quarantine.
Joyce revealed that while under seven-day home quarantine, travellers will be required to take at least two COVID tests following their return from overseas.
According to the Qantas boss, the airline is working with the IATA to develop a new Qantas smartphone app that passengers can access to upload and verify their vaccination status and COVID-19 test results ahead of their flight, based on IATA’s Travel Pass technology.
Joyce said another app is also in development that will use geolocation and facial recognition technologies to ensure that passengers are complying with home quarantine requirements, however he added, “there is a level of trust with this”.
Joyce said it will be the responsibility of the passenger to ensure they have an appropriate location to complete their home quarantine.
“There will be an electronic arrival form that people have to fill in to come into the country which will have the details of where they’re staying … and there will be requirements for people on all of that to tell the truth and to be honest because they’re legal forms.”
Despite the government’s announcement last week, Joyce said that Australia remains largely closed for tourists and visitors due to the quarantine requirement, and that he hoped to see the seven-day home quarantine policy “quite rapidly” reduced to just 72 hours through a ‘test and release’ program – or scrapped entirely.
“If the virus is circulating in Victoria and New South Wales when the borders open up and the lockdowns have ended, then there’s no more risk from a person coming in from the UK and the US,” he said.
“Certainly we need to move from seven days to get tourists and business travellers to start travelling again.”
It comes as Qantas officially brought forward its planned restart date for international flights from mid-December to 14 November, following the federal government’s announcement that Australia’s international borders will open next month.
Qantas said on Friday that this date may be altered in the future, once the government confirms an exact date for the reopening of international borders.
“Flights will be brought forward if [this date] is earlier than 14 November or moved to later in the month, if necessary,” Qantas said.
As it stands, the Flying Kangaroo confirmed it will operate three weekly return flights between Sydney and London, as well as three weekly return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles, both on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners from 14 November.
The airline said those are the two routes that have been the most searched on its website in recent weeks.
The airline will add more flights to meet increased demand, if needed.
Earlier today, Qantas revealed its intentions to secure over 100 new aircraft for its domestic operations.
Joyce this week will meet representatives from Boeing, Airbus and Embraer to discuss the renewal of its narrow-body fleet, which will see more than 100 new aircraft arrive by 2034.
Aircraft being evaluated include the controversial 737 MAX, the A320 family (A320neo and A321neo), A220 and Embraer E-Jet E2 family.