Christmas travel chaos in Australia

Shutterstock / TonyNg

After Australia imposed new domestic border restrictions, Christmas plans for many travelers were thrown into chaos. 

On December 18, 2020, 28 infection cases of COVID-19 were found in the Sydney area. The local authorities outlined that everyone in the area had to be on a high alert. In spite of orders to stay at home, Sydney airport was flocked with people trying to fly out of the state, fearing border closures. Photos shared on social media showed cramped travelers and no social distancing measures, reported the 7 News. 

“We are seeing a high level of inquiry from customers in Sydney looking to change their travel plans, so we’d ask anyone not travelling in the next 14 days to please avoid calling our contact center to help us manage these volumes,” said Qantas Airways representative

A Virgin Australia spokesman said their scheduling changes would be flexible for passengers wanting to leave Sydney or return from another state.

Travelers flying out of Sydney were placed in immediate hotel quarantine for 14 days upon landing in another state, reported Reuters. Queensland state and the Northern Territory demanded anyone who had been on the northern beaches to quarantine for 14 days while Western Australia state imposed this on anyone from New South Wales (NSW).

On December 18, 2020, the state of NSW had fined a crew from LATAM Chile for allegedly failing to follow orders for self-isolation and leaving their hotel rooms. Thirteen crew members were reportedly fined $1,000 each. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced new restrictions on airline crews arriving in the state – mandatory quarantine in government-designated hotels will be required.

Up until this point, Australia has gone with zero cases for two weeks. The country was hoping for the recovery of domestic tourism with the resumed operations by Virgin Australia and Qantas Airways. 

With Australia’s state borders reopening, Qantas’ domestic flight capacity started rising, offering hope for the repair of the airline’s balance sheet. On December 3, 2020, the Australian air carrier reported that domestic capacity would reach 68% of pre-pandemic level in December 2020. 


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