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Aviation recovery hindered as travellers fear future border closures

written by Hannah Dowling | December 22, 2021
A Rex Saab 340b, VH-RXX, alongside a Qantas A330-202, VH-EBN, as shot by Victor Pody
A Rex Saab 340b, VH-RXX, alongside a Qantas A330-202, VH-EBN, as shot by Victor Pody.

The majority of Australian travellers remain concerned that state and international borders could close unexpectedly and without warning, shaking consumer confidence and hindering the aviation sector’s recovery.

While the federal government and most state governments have committed to keeping their borders open due to vaccine milestones already having been met, a new survey suggests consumers remain unconvinced.

According to the survey commissioned by the Australian Airports Association, 62 per cent of consumers said they are reluctant to travel interstate during the crucial summer travel season due to the possibility that state governments will impose additional travel restrictions.

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The AAA said that potential passengers were largely worried about being placed into lockdown while on their travels or losing money on flights and accommodation if their plans get derailed by border closures.

Meanwhile, 97 per cent of respondents said they were not booking flights or holidays more than three months in advance, given all the uncertainty.

“There is a real fear among the travelling public that borders could close again as a result of the current Omicron strain and rising case numbers,” said AAA chief executive James Goodwin.

“Passenger numbers at Australian airports are still well below pre-pandemic levels, even with Christmas just days away. 

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“There is going to be a long lag between the opening of state and territory borders and full consumer confidence when it comes to taking to the skies again.”

The AAA survey also found that Australians are largely in support of a gradual reopening of Australia’s international borders to tourists, with 72 per cent stating as such, while 80 per cent of respondents said they would like to see more international travel bubbles put into place.  

“Australians want to get back to living their lives and look toward a COVID-free future, however, most are still not quite ready to put their money where their mouth is with just 45 per cent of fully vaccinated regular travellers willing to book a flight abroad,” Goodwin added.

According to the survey, the “main barrier” preventing people from comfortably booking overseas trips is the risk of having to isolate in a foreign country, with 76 per cent of respondents noting this.

Meanwhile, 69 per cent were worried about contracting COVID-19 overseas, while 65 per cent were concerned that the government will shut its international border and leave them stranded overseas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called an emergency meeting of National Cabinet on Wednesday to discuss with state leaders the emergence of the Omicron variant, and rapidly growing case numbers throughout the country.

It is also expected that state leaders will be asked by Morrison to drop their PCR testing requirements for interstate arrivals, as queues for COVID testing around the nation continue to increase.

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