Qantas Says Australia Will Re-Open To Visitors, Business Class Awards Available

Australia may re-open to international travel July 1. At least that’s what the CEO of Qantas is saying, and Qantas has loaded international flights for sale as of that date. Qantas had previously killed its full international schedule through the end of September.

Seeing this news I immediately went to look for award seats, and found what I needed to visit my family that lives in the Sydney suburbs and also outside of Brisbane. Two of my cousins are having new babies in the next several weeks. And I didn’t get to see them at all in 2020.

  • July and August Qantas business class award space is pretty good, San Francisco – Sydney and Los Angeles – Brisbane, when searching for 3 passengers (award space is better looking for just two).

  • American Airlines websavers on the Los Angeles – Sydney flights are somewhat available (for as little as 71,500 AAdvantage miles per person) when adding a connection beyond Los Angeles.

Now it’s not clear what opening July 1 would even mean.

  • Australians might be permitted to travel internationally but that doesn’t mean foreigners will be permitted.

  • If foreign visitors are allowed, we don’t know under what conditions – negative test? vaccination (there’s still scant data on the extent vaccination prevents spread versus symptomatic Covid)?

  • And if vaccinations are required, will that apply universally? Would that requirement prevent travel by a family like mine with a two year old? (Vaccine dosage hasn’t even started to be tested in young children.)

Award travel to Australia has been tough throughout the pandemic. Qantas hasn’t been publishing schedules, taking a lot of inventory out of the market. Australia has imposed limits on daily arrivals into their international airports, based on quarantine capacity. Airlines haven’t known whether they’d be allowed to fly, or whether the flights they have scheduled in the future will really operate, so even as award space on many airlines to many destinations has been easy to come by premium cabin awards to Australia have been scarce.

It’s probably safer to book for August or later in case a July 1 date slips. I made my plans fully knowing that they’re tentative, subject to the country actually opening and being able to comply with whatever conditions they’ve said. But award travel is flexible. I can cancel without penalty. Still, having something on the books to Australia makes me the most hopeful I’ve been in six months.

Note that the American Airlines website will sometimes show phantom space, or error our, when booking Qantas space – and it will fail to show some space that’s available. I had to make my booking by phone. American no longer charges telephone booking fees for awards – this is no longer limited to Executive Platinum members.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Another question is which countries would be admitted to Australia. The USA may not be on the initial list of approved countries.

  2. I would think there is a very high probability that anyone travelling from Europe or North America will be required to do two weeks hotel quarantine upon arrival in Australia. Qantas launching flights does not necessarily mean a relaxation of quarantine regulations — there is currently quarantine for domestic travel between Australian states.

  3. August seems very optimistic, but I agree that having something on the books to look forward to is uplifting. I booked a Thanksgiving trip to Japan yesterday. Still waiting for the return schedule to open up. Fingers crossed we can go at all.

  4. Booking now is a sucker bet. Given the way the US has botched the vaccine rollout, the new covid variants, the way some states still refuse to do the right thing and how sensitive Australia is to covid risk I don’t think its realistic to expect to be able to fly to australia in July or even August. For most non-australians I’m not even optimistic the trip will be able to made in 2021.

  5. With a 95% efficacy rate, it is very unlikely that live virus would remain in the mucous and be spread by someone who has been fully vaccinated.

    With the vaccine approved at Warp Speed, it wasn’t possible to complete testing on all portions of the population, e.g., children, or its ability to limit spread from those immunized before releasing the vaccine. That testing is ongoing.

    But an unvaccinated two-year old can catch and spread COVID just as well as an adult. I would not expect Oz to allow in anyone, regardless of age, who has not been fully immunized (both injections plus two weeks).

  6. @Charles
    It’s ‘some’ Australian states. Which states changes rather regularly depending on where a cluster might pop up. Fortunately they are crushed quickly.
    Does tend to restrict interstate travel to last-minute decisions unfortunately.

  7. Hey, Annabelle, that’s what people were saying a few months ago about a vaccine being available in the same year COVID happened. I don’t know about your state, but in mine, they’re in the second round, not running out of supply, and I expect it will be my turn (comorbidity) in about 1-2 weeks. So maybe it’s not quite as crazy as it all seem, huh? Some positivity would be a crazy change of thought for us all this year, though. I am ready to dream again.

  8. They still haven’t managed to roll out the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble despite both countries having similar (extremely low) levels of COVID. I would expect them to be very cautious about adding other countries to the safe list, even with vaccinations and pre-departure testing.

    Considering the CDC estimates that 27% of Americans had contracted COVID by the end of November and the number of confirmed cases has since risen by 50%, I think it’s fair to say the virus is completely out of control in the US. Given that reality, the chances of Australia opening their borders to Americans by July are basically zero. I wouldn’t bother planning anything before 2022.

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