International airlines say they could be forced to suspend services to Australia starting next week after the national cabinet agreed to cut the number of people allowed to enter the country by half, and say any suggestion of price increases it is “insulting and strange”.
Starting on July 14, overseas arrivals will drop dramatically from 6,070 to 3,035 per week, crushing the hopes of thousands of Australians stranded abroad seeking to return home.
Barry Abrams, executive director of the Australian Airline Representatives Board, said on Sunday he was sympathetic to those captured overseas. But he said airlines still flying to Australia struggling to break even would face tough decisions.
“It is going to be a very difficult situation for many airlines to maintain their frequency of flights to Australia,” Abrams said.
“Many will wonder if it makes more sense to suspend their passenger flights or simply carry out cargo flights. I wouldn’t see it as isolating Australia [but] It would see a reduction in connectivity and availability of flights to and from Australia. “
The price of a flight is based on its length, number of passengers and air cargo capacity, with the direct cost of a flight being $ 10,000 an hour, Abrams said.
If an airline were to cease operating, he hopes the government will reassign seats under the new cap to other airlines that continue to fly to Australia. But without details provided to the industry, there were many unknowns about how the change would be handled, Abrams said.
“The airlines haven’t even been assigned their cap reductions yet,” he said. “It is not until those processes begin to occur that airlines can begin to process this. I know this does not give any certainty to all this.
“We certainly understand, that it is a terrible situation, but that is something that we are fulfilling on the part of the Australian government and that the airlines will have to go and do.”
Abrams said the airline industry had not been consulted prior to Friday’s announcement.
The news was followed by a torrent of anger and dismay at online community groups for Australians stranded abroad.
Many called the decision “inhumane,” especially since no timelines or targets were provided clarifying when quarantine restrictions could be eased for fully vaccinated travelers.
About 5,000 people signed a petition on Change.org to “Deny Annastacia Palaszczuk an exemption from leaving Australia to attend the Tokyo Olympics” after the Queensland Prime Minister led the states’ campaign to reduce the number of international arrivals.
According to the most recent figures from the foreign affairs department, there are 34,000 Australians trapped abroad who are still waiting to return home.
The price of flights to Australia skyrocketed after Friday’s announcement, but Abrams rejected any suggestion that airlines were raising prices.
“As international airlines, we would see it as a great insult,” Abrams said. “They have continued to operate during the pandemic under extremely difficult business conditions and many large multinationals continue to suffer large cash flow losses. Any idea that they have been profiting or profiting is just weird. “
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had said Saturday that he hoped “there will be no one looking for a business advantage in difficult circumstances.”
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham on Sunday advocated cutting the finish line.
“This decision is one that only addresses the reality of the fact that the risk profile changes as we continue to go through this pandemic,” he told ABC’s Insiders program. “The Delta variant changes that profile in terms of the transmissibility of that and the risks associated with it.”
The minister rejected suggestions that the lowering of the limit could have been avoided if the federal government had started planning and building specially designed quarantine facilities in early 2020.
“I don’t think we will ever be able to replicate the number of places in terms of hotel quarantine in other types of facilities,” he said.
“Australia has done an incredible job of getting people back while still suppressing the virus and keeping it out of the community, so it has been a very successful model to date.”
– Additional information from Australia Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism