Western Australia’s borders have finally reopened to domestic and international travellers after nearly two years of harsh restrictions.
As of 11:59pm on Wednesday, triple-vaccinated domestic travellers can now finally travel into the western state without quarantine, after 697 days of interstate border control measures.
Meanwhile, double-jabbed travellers from overseas can now fly directly into WA for the first time since 20 March 2020.
It comes after WA Premier Mark McGowan announced last month that his state will drop quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated interstate and international travellers on 3 March, with anyone aged 16 and over also required to have had their booster shot before entering from interstate.
Border restrictions were initially planned to lift on 5 February, however, McGowan announced that this date would be pushed back due to the Omicron outbreak in the eastern states.
Qantas flight QF693 was the first to land at Perth Airport, just minutes after the border fell at 12:05am, after departing Sydney at 10:33pm local time.
QF693 was followed closely by Singapore Airlines flight SQ215 from Singapore, which touched down in Perth at 12:10am.
The first passenger flight from Melbourne, Jetstar flight JQ972, is expected to land at 7:10am local time, with flights from Adelaide, Brisbane, and Canberra expected later in the day.
Internationally, a number of additional flights from Singapore are expected today, as well as one flight from Doha.
Qantas has revealed that over 23,000 passengers are booked to travel to and from Perth this week on Qantas and Jetstar flights, with 31 flights scheduled for Thursday alone.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce welcomed the border reopening and said it is time for Australia to move forward with confidence as the world emerges from a COVID travel pause.
“Australia is now finally back together. This day has been a long time coming. It’s a terrific boost to West Australian tourism operators and businesses who will once again benefit from the influx of visitors from the east coast and beyond.
“We had to cancel thousands of flights when the border reopening was cancelled in February and tens of thousands of travellers had their plans ruined, but while the reopening has been complicated, it’s great that Aussies can now travel freely again,” Joyce said.
Joyce has long criticised Premier McGowan’s decision to delay the border reopening, revealing last week that the move cost his airline $60 million.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi said the border reopening would allow thousands of people on both sides of the continent to make plans for the Easter holidays.
“After an unfortunate false start, Victorians and Western Australians can once again travel freely between our two great states,” he said.
“After almost two years of restrictions, we know there is plenty of pent-up demand but rebuilding traveller confidence may take time.”
It comes after the rest of Australia dropped its last remaining restrictions on its international borders, allowing tourists to once again visit Australia for the first time in nearly two years on 21 February.
It marked Australia’s final stage of reopening its borders after previously allowing residents and citizens to fly in November last year, before opening to students, backpackers and skilled migrants in December. The federal government progressively increased travel restrictions from late March 2020 as COVID cases rose.