Passengers have generally been required to quarantine themselves in the state where they land, not where they live. Many of them will need domestic flights to get home, but these are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
“Currently, there are no flights for at least two weeks as far as I can see,” said Jane Green, who was part of a passenger group on the cruise ship Vasco da Gama released from quarantine hotel in Perth Friday.
To return to South Australia, Green and his friend had to book a flight to Sydney, where they stayed overnight and flew to Adelaide the next day. But even this roundabout route has since been canceled.
“There is currently no way to leave. Even if you drive, there are problems with travel borders in Western Australia… We can’t reach anyone to tell us what to do, ”said Green.
“We had a complete information vacuum. Very, very, very few of the documents provided to us have a direct contact number. “
Andrew McMahon is expected to be released from Perth quarantine in the coming week. After canceling two flights to Melbourne, he now plans to spend more than $ 1,500 on a rental car.
“It doesn’t even include insurance … and accommodation for the three-day car trip,” he said.
“I currently have no plans. We had booked a [Qantas] red-eye flight to Melbourne for me and Sydney for my sister. They just evaporated from my travel agent’s screen.
“We made new reservations for Virgin for Tuesday, and then Virgin immobilized all of the flights, essentially. “
Green and McMahon have been contacted by the Western Australian government regarding the possibility of charter flights to the country, but have not received confirmation of the flight or cost.
The WA state government has been contacted for comment.
Only three airlines still fly in the domestic market in Australia – Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin. All of them have significantly reduced their scheduled flights, particularly those to and from Western Australia.
The next scheduled flight from Perth is by Qantas on April 24. Jetstar has not scheduled any before June 1 at least.
Virgin said on Thursday that it would stop almost all domestic flights. It now only offers round-trip flights between Melbourne and Sydney six times a week and serves some small mining communities in Western Australia.
“Due to government restrictions, fewer people are traveling and we have changed our schedules to reflect this,” said a spokesperson for Virgin.
Virgin Australia operates international repatriation flights from Hong Kong and Los Angeles to Brisbane, but the airline has no flights from Brisbane to any other state.
Andrea, who asked that her last name not be used, is among those stranded in Brisbane after Virgin canceled her domestic flight.
She said she spent more than $ 3,500 on plane tickets from New York to Melbourne.
“I’m just hemorrhaging money,” she said.
Andrea was asked to vacate her quarantine hotel before noon on April 14, but is unable to fly that day.
“They said that I could not pay another hotel night at my expense, I could not even leave my luggage at the hotel to pick it up later. “
She said that some flights were canceled without her being informed.
Andrea has now booked two flights for April 16, one with Qantas and the other with Jetstar, hoping that at least one will go ahead.
“Not everyone has this luxury. They don’t say, “Oh, great, I’m going to spend $ 500 more on another flight just in case,” she said.
“The only way to be really good in this pandemic is if you are connected, educated or very wealthy, and it’s just not OK … People find themselves stranded and don’t simply have no information. “
A spokesman for Qantas said the flights were canceled due to limited demand.
“Earlier this week, we had flights with only a handful of passengers on board, which just isn’t viable for us given the high operating costs,” the company said in a statement.
“We are continuing discussions with the federal government on operating a minimal national and regional network for essential travel during the crisis.”
A spokeswoman said Qantas had attempted to contact customers whose flights had been canceled “as part of the standard cancellation process”.
A spokesperson for Virgin Australia said that “all affected passengers who have booked their flights directly with Virgin Australia have been informed of the schedule changes.”
However, for reservations through a travel agent, the agent rather than the customer will be notified if a Virgin flight is canceled.