On 24th March 2020, the Australian Prime Minister declared that, as of immediate effect, all travel was off the table indefinitely.
This applied as much to domestic travel as it did to international. Since then, and as the restrictions and lockdowns became more and more stringent, we have had so many travel lovers call us asking for a flight outa here! Our response is always the same – at this stage, Australian government regulations stipulate that travel is not permitted, full stop. There are of course, exceptions to this rule which I will outline later, but that is honestly the basis of it. No travel permitted.
Why then, are there still the likes of Qatar Airways and Emirates still flying out of the country? Where are they going? Who are these ‘lucky ones’ that get that special privilege? To some, it may seem a bit like Charlie finding the lucky Golden Ticket to enter The Chocolate Factory!
The fact is, these flights are what we refer to as ‘repatriation flights’. They are available only to foreign nationals. That is, anyone other than Australian passport holders. These people may be the likes of foreign students trying to get home, or those on an Australian working visa about to expire, or perhaps even someone who was holidaying in Australia when COVID-19 struck; these people all still need to get home. These flights are also in place to help Australian citizens (on Australian passports) who need to travel for emergency purposes – the serious illness or death of an immediate family member overseas, for example.
Having said that, even if you are on an Australian passport, you cannot simply feign an emergency to jump on the next flight. There is a strict government procedure in place, and protocols must be followed. Firstly, you need to apply for a Request To Travel from the Department of Immigration. You will also need to provide documentation in support of your application. It will then take at least 24 hours to have your application approved (or refused) by the Department of Immigration. If approved, they will notify the Australian Border Force on your behalf that you have been given permission to travel, and only then should you purchase your ticket, for only then will you be permitted to fly. Without this approval, you will be denied boarding at check-in, and you may even face no-show penalties upwards of US$700.
Where then, do we stand with domestic travel, and just when can we expect to start going walkabout in our own back yard? We have put together a brief outline below of the current regulations for each Australian State and Territory (credit goes to MTG Head Office for this information) :
QUEENSLAND On 10th July 2020, the Queensland government will review their border policies.
VICTORIA & NSW The borders of Victoria and NSW have always remained open.
ACT, WESTERN AUSTRALIA, TASMANIA & NORTHERN TERRITORY There are currently no plans to ease the border restrictions for these States and Territories.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA On 8th June, the SA government will start to consider relaxing border restrictions, although there are no immediate plans in place.
Until next week, stay happy, stay healthy, and stay safe!