Virgin Australia economy class on an Airbus A330. All passengers on rescue flights will sit in economy, with social distancing measures in place.
As airlines worldwide continue winding down their operations and ground their aircraft, government-subsidised flights bringing Australians home from four countries will begin on Thursday.
For the next month, Qantas and Virgin Australia are flying Australians home on 13 weekly flights from London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Auckland.
The flights represent the final chance for Australians to voluntarily return home ahead of an extended shutdown period.
Qantas will perform 10 weekly repatriation flights over the next month.
The federal government is underwriting the cost of each service in case the flights are loss-making, but the airlines will earn a profit if they get enough passengers on board.
The 10 weekly Qantas flights are charged in local currency depending on the origin of departure, so exact prices will fluctuate based on exchange rates. Flights are one way.:
London-Melbourne, once a week – £721 ($1450)
Los Angeles-Brisbane, once a week – $US450 ($731)
Hong Kong-Brisbane and Hong Kong-Melbourne, twice a week each – $HKD3500 ($735)
Auckland-Brisbane and Hong Kong-Melbourne, twice a week each – $NZ320 ($310)
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Qantas will fly Boeing 787 Dreamliners on the routes.
Virgin is operating flights from Hong Kong to Brisbane twice a week for $HKD2983 ($628) and once a week from Los Angeles to Brisbane for $US475 ($772). It will use its largest planes, Boeing 777s, for the routes.
Just a couple of months ago, prior to travel restrictions coming into place, return flights from Australia to Los Angeles on several airlines could be purchased for less than $1000, while return flights to London were going for about $1500.
All passengers will fly in economy class and be spaced out to comply with social distancing requirements. In-flight entertainment will not be available and airport lounges are closed. The flights can be booked through the airlines’ respective websites.
While the federal government has banned Australians from leaving the country, foreign nationals can book flights on each return leg to leave Australia and return home. The flights will also carry freight between the countries.
Australians stranded in South America will have to fork out $2550 to get home, while those in India seeking to return are looking at $3000 if flights can be organised.
Anyone who takes up these flights will have to spend two weeks in a hotel as part of the mandatory quarantine arrangements to stop the spread of coronavirus. Eleven Qantas crew contracted COVID-19 on a flight from Santiago on March 28.
Meanwhile Qatar Airways, one of the only major airlines still flying regularly, is charging customers more than $1700 for a one-way ticket from London-Sydney. One-way flights from Vienna start at $2300.
After grounding most of its fleet, Emirates has resumed flying to key destinations in Europe, although the airline’s services to Australia remain suspended.
Qatar Airways is now the only airline from the region to continue flying to Australia. Citing demand from Australians looking to get home, the airline actually increased flight frequency to the equivalent of 48,000 additional seats. It also added a Doha to Brisbane route for the first time.
See also: Airlines are filling the empty seats in their planes with cargo
See also: How we will know when it’s OK to travel again