Recently I took my first flight since the pandemic began. For someone whose work is essentially based around ‘travel’, and a Gold Frquent Flyer, for me it feels really strange to spend the first 10 months of 2020 being grounded, so to say.
If you‘ve been following me on Instagram, you would have seen that my husband and I recently took a wonderful holiday to Hayman Island and Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. The whole week leading up to our holiday I was feeling really nervous to get on a plane again.
On the way to the airport I suddenly started freaking out that they weren’t going to let me on the plane without some kind of permit and madly started googling to check.
Guess what? It was quite difficult to find the exact information I was looking for! So, I decided to write a post about my own experience.
Let’s Holiday Here This Year!
If like me, you are based in Australia but usually tend to plan your holidays overseas instead of exploring our own home country, it’s time to change that mindset. Given that the Australian borders are currently closedto most international tourism, it’s now more important than ever for Australian’s to support our local tourism businesses!
As state borders begin to open up again and people are becoming more confident to step onboard a plane, it’s time to start ticking off those Australian Bucket List experiences you’ve always dreamt about. Perhaps it might be a visit to beautiful Noosa Heads, a road trip along the Great Ocean Road, seeing the Great Barrier Reef, a Port Douglas family getaway, or a Tasmanian self-drive holiday.
Wherever it may be, if you need to catch a flight to get there… we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about flying in Australia right now!
Before reading this article, please keep in mind that the situation with COVID is fluid and changes regularly. I will try to keep this article updated as much as possible, but be sure to keep an eye on the Australian government recommendations here.
I Took My First Pandemic Flight – Here’s What It Was Really Like…
First things first, there’s no need to freak out about flying within Australia at the moment. We are after all the “lucky country”, or perhaps we’re just extremely responsible and cautious.
At the time of writing this article, Australia has very few coronavirus infections compared with other countries, thanks to our rigorous contact tracing and tough border control measures.
Let’s hope it stays that way!
Even so, we are after all living with a pandemic that spreads rapidly amongst our kind, so it still pays to take some precautions.
Planning to Travel Soon… Where Can You Go?
Where Can I Travel in Australia?
Recently I was doing some research for potential future travel plans (aren’t we all starting to get itchy feet by now?). I happened to stumble across this awesome interactive feature on the Virgin Australia website which helps you to plan where you can and can’t go within Australia.
You simply click on the state you want to travel to, and the website gives you all the latest information about travel to/from and within that state, as well as an updated schedule of flights.
Can Australians Travel to New Zealand Yet?
You might have heard the rumours about the trans-Tasman travel bubble? It seems to be the hottest topic in the Australian travel world right now cause it’s FINALLY happening. The Australian Government has established a Safe Travel Zone with New Zealand (and hopefully will include other low-risk countries in the not too distant future).
For the moment, this means that New Zealanders can travel to restricted areas within Australia. Unfortunately, Australians are not yet allowed to go to New Zealand.
However, the NZ Prime Minister has indicated that the NZ borders will open up to Australians as soon as it is deemed safe enough. And with our COVID numbers continuing to trend downwards, hopefully that’s not too far away. You can find out all the latest information on the Safe Travel Zone with New Zealand here.
Can I Fly to Australia from Overseas?
Until further notice, the Australia Government has implemented strict immigration measures to allow only Australians citizens, New Zealand citizens, Australian residents and immediate family to enter the country, with mandatory quarantine requirements. You can find out more up-to-date information here.
Do I Need Government Approval to Fly Domestically?
Before flying domestically, you should first confirm whether you’re actually permitted to enter your intended destination and if there is any requirement to quarantine before or after your flight.
This will depend entirely on a number of factors including; the state you are coming from, the state you will be landing in, and whether or not you’ve been in a declared COVID hotspot recently.
If there’s one thing we know for sure, the current status of state border closures is very fluid and appears to change frequently without notice. It’s highly possible that an outbreak could result in more state border closures at any time or hotspot communities put into lockdown with less than 24 hours’ notice.
While many Australian states are starting to allow interstate travellers to enter once again, most require you to apply for an entry permit. We recently flew from Brisbane to Hamilton Island, which was entirely within the state of Queensland, so there was no need for us to apply for an entry permit or border pass.
Related Post: A Guide to Visiting Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays
I would highly recommend you check the requirements mandated by the state you plan to enter. As this information changes regularly, I’ve provided the relevant links to each state government travel advice webpages below:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
Showing Proof of Residency
When arriving at your destination, it’s likely you will need to show proof of the state in which you reside. Depending on the requirements, you may also need to undergo a police check, or in extreme cases, show proof of a negative COVID test result.
When we arrived at Hamilton Island Airport there were two lines, one for Queensland residents and one for non-Queensland residents. At this point we were required to show proof that we resided in Queensland.
A state driver’s license is the best option. However, if you happen to have a driver’s license from a different state, or country, or no driver’s license, you should bring a copy of a utilities bill or council rates notice with your name and address to prove which state you currently reside. Carrying this information on you will save a lot of headaches on arrival.
What Additional Safety Measures Have Airlines Put in Place?
I flew on both Qantas and Virgin Australia recently. And I can honestly say, it actually didn’t really feel much different to flying pre-COVID times. Apart from the fact that there were fewer passengers at the airport.
Some of the additional safety measures that airlines have put in place include; contactless check-in, lounge capacity restrictions, hand sanitising stations, amended food and beverage service, additional cleaning and hospital-grade cabin air filtration.
For more information about these measures introduced by each airline, click the relevant link below:
Related Post: Great Ocean Road: Ultimate Road Trip Guide & Itinerary
Do You Have to Wear a Mask on the Flight?
Before I boarded my flight, I read the precautions sent to me by the airline. They recommend that everyone wears a mask and the ticket even says that the airline will provide masks and hand sanitiser.
I actually found this not to be the case. I was not offered a mask when I boarded the flight. However, I found out after boarding that packs with masks and hand sanitiser were available at the gate and I should have grabbed one before boarding. I must have missed this.
Airlines strongly recommend all passengers wear masks inflight, but this is not mandatory, with the exception of flights to/from and within Victoria. However, this situation could change at any time depending on the latest health information from the state government. I found that only about 30% of people on my flight were actually wearing a mask.
As an extra precaution, I would recommend taking your own mask if you plan to fly.
Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to Port Douglas, Australia
Does the Airline Ensure People are Socially Distanced Onboard the Plane?
In short, no they don’t.
My flight was literally packed with only a few spare seats. This was something that surprised me – there was absolutely no organised social distancing onboard the flight at all. However, having worked for an airline for 13 years, I know how difficult this would be for airlines to manage.
The airline industry has experienced a massive financial blow during this pandemic. I know all too well that airlines operate on razor thin profit margins during a normal financial climate. With the high cost of fuel, most flights require at least 70-80% load factor before they make a profit!
So essentially, if every passenger was required to sit 1.5 metres apart onboard, the airline would have to increase the cost of airfares to a point where most Australians would not be able to afford to fly. Or worse – they would lose money on every single flight and wouldn’t be able to afford to operate at all.
Airlines are basically stuck between a rock and hard place during this pandemic, which is likely the reason they don’t offer social distancing. I highly recommend you take extra precautions instead.
Airline Refunds and Cancellations
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia are all currently operating a decreased schedule of flights between states.
They are constantly monitoring the pandemic situation and may regularly update their schedule (including adding or cancelling flights) as needed.
If you decide to take the plunge and book a flight within Australia, and your area (or the area you’re travelling to) becomes a designated hotspot, or you start to feel unwell, you want to be sure that you can cancel your flight, right?
The good news is that Australian airlines have considered the current situation and amended their flight changes and cancellation policies:
Related Post: Where to Find the Best Laneways in Melbourne
Because the information relating to travelling during the pandemic changes regularly, we will do our best to keep subscribers updated as the information in this article changes.
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Have you flown in Australia during this pandemic? Got any other tips I missed out on? Let our readers know about them in the comments below.
Plan Your Holiday in Australia!
Planning to explore more of Australia? Read on for more inspiration:
- 50+ Famous Landmarks in Australia to add to your Bucket List
- Flying in Australia during COVID: Everything You Need to Know!
- 15 Weekend Getaways from Sydney that are Perfect for Couples
- 10 Amazing Stops Along The Great Ocean Road
- Where to Find the Best Laneways in Melbourne
- A Weekend Guide to Noose Heads: Where to Stay, Eat & Play
- Ultimate 6 Day Tasmania East Coast Road Trip Itinerary
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Planning a trip soon? Here is a list of the websites and resources we use for booking everything from flights, to accommodation, tours, and more:
- Skyscanner for booking the best flight deals
- Booking.com | Agoda | Hotels.com for the best rates on hotels
- Airbnb | HomeAway to find the best apartment and home rentals
- Rentalcars.com for quick and easy car rentals
- Luxury Escapes for luxury package holiday deals and tours
- Get Your Guide for a great range of day tours
- Tourradar | Intrepid for multi-day experiential and adventure tours
- Priority Pass for airport lounge access in hundreds of locations around the world
- Skyroam to stay connected to WiFi everywhere I go
- iVisa to apply for entry visas for most countries in the world
- World Nomads for the most comprehensive worldwide travel insurance
About the Author:
Amanda Twine is the founder and creator of Fly Stay Luxe – a luxury travel blog sharing informative travel guides, food guides, hotel reviews, itineraries and tips about how to make luxury travel more affordable.