On December 7, 2020, the first international flight in five months landed in Melbourne Airport.
SriLankan Airlines flight number UL604 took off from Colombo, Sri Lanka at 4:45pm and landed in Melbourne, Australia, at 7:48am. The arrival of this flight will be a test for Victoria’s updated hotel quarantine system. The passengers arriving from Sri Lanka will have to be isolated for 14 days in hotel rooms without a possibility to leave. However, some travelers returning from less affected countries, could possibly isolate at home. A similar system is being used in Sydney.
In June 2020, Melbourne Airport (MEL) stopped accepting any arrivals due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak began at two hotels where arriving passengers were quarantining and more than 20,000 cases of infections were registered. The outbreak was blamed on the authorities not following the safety protocols.
The restarted flights should ease the constraints on Australians returning home from overseas, especially over the Christmas holiday season. Melbourne is expected to see an initial number of 160 passengers a day or 1,120 per week.
Easing travel restrictions and reopening of Australia’s internal borders boosted flights operated by airlines such as Qantas and Virgin Australia.
On December 3, 2020, Qantas reported that domestic capacity will reach 68% of pre-pandemic level in December 2020. In the previous months it had been running at about 40%. The air carrier announced the addition of more flights between Sydney and Perth.
Currently, a travel ban, administered by the Department of Home Affairs, prevents Australians from going overseas. The international flights from Australia are expected to restart only in the summer of 2021.