Travelling to Australia During COVID-19 (Guide)

madrooster

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Check back periodically for expanded information and updates.

Last Updated: 15 JUL 2021

AFF on Air Podcasts


Podcast #54: How to Fly to Australia Without Getting "Bumped"​



Podcast #62: Travelling to Australia During COVID-19 (Part One)​



Related Articles


How to Successfully Return to Australia in June 2021

Guide Contents


Airlines / Flights​


Commercial Flights
Government Repatriation Flights

Fares / Ticketing​


Cabin Classes and Fare Classes
Fare Types
Flexible Economy vs. Full Fare Economy vs. Economy Plus vs. Premium Economy
Fare Pricing

Airline Policies​


Involuntary Refund Policies
Checked Baggage Allowances

Travel Requirements​


Transit Requirements
Entry requirements to Australia

Before Booking Flights​


Booking online vs. with a travel agent
Choosing a good travel agent
Travel agent booking and service fees
Common travel agent scams/dishonest tactics
What airlines look at when bumping passengers
How to minimise your chances of being bumped
Common booking issues to be aware of

After Booking Flights​


Monitoring your booking
Closer to departure

Questions? Do you have something you would like to discuss?​


A thread is available for members who wish to discuss the content in the guide, have questions about any of the content in the guide or anything related to travelling to Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can visit the discussion thread at:

Travelling to Australia During COVID-19 (Discussion)

Contact The Author​


Contact the author of this guide
 
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madrooster

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Commercial Flights


When travelling from afar, eg. from Africa, Europe, North America or South America, it's quite likely that you will have one transit port or possibly two transit ports enroute.

When travelling from a location closer to Australia, eg. Asia, then you may be able to fly on a non stop flight to Australia, or you will have one transit port enroute.

The airline(s) that carry you from your origin port to a transit port is less important. The airline that carries you from the transit port immediately before Australia to Australia is the airline that you need to pay the most attention to.

For example, you might have an itinerary of:

Frankfurt to Singapore on Lufthansa - the airline that operates this flight is less important
Singapore to Sydney on Singapore Airlines - this is the most important airline/flight to give the most attention to

Below is a list of airlines that are currently flying to Australia for non travel bubble passengers. The below tables only cover airlines that are operating commercial passenger service. Many airlines are operating cargo-only services and these airlines have been omitted. Airlines that only operate travel bubble services have been omitted.

Airlines that operate to intermediate transit ports are not covered below. It is OK to fly an airline not listed below (eg. Lufthansa as per the above example) if it is to an intermediate transit port.

Airlines to look at​


Airline
Code​
Frequency​
Sydney​
Brisbane​
Melbourne​
Adelaide​
Perth​
Aircalin
SB​
2/week​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
Air Niugini
PX​
3-4/week​
Yes​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
All Nippon Airways
NH​
5/week​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
American Airlines
AA​
Daily​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
Asiana Airlines
OZ​
1/week​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
Cathay Pacific
CX​
> 7/week​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
China Airlines
CI​
Sporadic​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
-​
-​
China Eastern Airlines
MU​
1/week​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
China Southern Airlines
CZ​
1/week​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
-​
-​
Delta Airlines
DL​
Daily​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
Emirates
EK​
> 7/week​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
Etihad Airways
EY​
> 7/week​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
-​
-​
EVA Air
BR​
1/fortnight​
-​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
Garuda Indonesia
GA​
1-2/week​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
Japan Airlines
JL​
2-3/week​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
Korean Air
KE​
1/week​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
Malaysia Airlines
MH​
2-3/fortnight​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
Yes​
-​
Qatar Airways
QR​
> 7/week​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
Scoot
TR​
Daily​
-​
-​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
Singapore Airlines
SQ​
> 7/week​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
Yes​
SriLankan Airlines
UL​
3-4/week​
Yes​
-​
Yes​
-​
-​
United Airlines
UA​
Daily​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​
XiamenAir
MF​
2/week​
Yes​
-​
-​
-​
-​

Airlines to avoid​


If the airline you are looking at for the flight from the last port before Australia to Australia is not specified in the above table, then that airline is currently NOT operating commercial passenger service to Australia and is unlikely to carry passengers to Australia any time soon.

Avoid these airlines - you will be disappointed.

The airlines not operating commercial flights to Australia include:

Air Canada
Air China
Air India
Air Mauritius
Air Vanuatu
AirAsia X
Batik Air
Beijing Capital Airlines
British Airways
Cebu Pacific
Citilink
Donghai Airlines
Hainan Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
Indonesia AirAsia
Jetstar Airways
Jetstar Asia Airways
Malindo Air
Philippine Airlines
Qantas Airways
Sichuan Airlines
South African Airways
Thai Airways
Tianjin Airlines
Vietnam Airlines
Virgin Australia

Flights that you might see as operating​


Numerous airlines are currently operating cargo only flights to/from Australia. Some airlines are even operating more flights to/from Australia than they were pre-COVID-19.

In many cases, these airlines are operating these flights under the regular passenger service flight numbers as it is easier for an airline to fly a flight if it operates under an already approved flight plan.

The effect of this is you may see flights operating that look like passenger carrying flights on sites like FlightStats, FlightAware, FlightRadar24, airport websites or even Google. As such, it is easy to be fooled into thinking an airline is flying passengers to Australia.

These flights are not carrying passengers.

Codeshare flights​


A number of airlines have codeshare agreements with the airlines that do operate passenger service into Australia.

A codeshare flight is where another carrier is given the ability to market and sell the flight as their own flight. Typically these codeshare flights have a 4 digit flight number.

A codeshare agreement is similar to where a retailer may be rebranding a wholesaler's product and selling it as their own. For example, a wholesaler selling blankets may sell their blankets with the default branding as Fred's Blankets. Anne, who operates a retail store selling home items may have an agreement to sell those blankets as Anne's Blankets. It's still the same blanket being sold at the end of the day.

Some examples of airlines who have codeshare agreements with the airlines that do operate passenger service into Australia include:

British Airways (BA) operated by Qatar Airways (QR)
Iberia (IB) operated by Qatar Airways (QR)
Swiss Air (LX) operated by Singapore Airlines (SQ)
Lufthansa (LH) operated by Singapore Airlines (SQ)
Air New Zealand (NZ) operated by All Nippon Airways (NH)
British Airways (BA) operated by Cathay Pacific (CX)

Passengers booked on codeshare flights for the flight from the last port before Australia to Australia generally get bumped/offloaded first by the operating airline.

Avoid these codeshare flights for the flight from the last port before Australia to Australia - you will be disappointed.

You may fly on a codeshare flight for any flight preceding the last flight. This is generally not an issue.

If you are booked on a codeshare flight for the flight from the last port before Australia to Australia, you may wish to consider booking alternative flights.
 
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Government Repatriation Flights


Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) regularly facilitates repatriation flights from a number of locations around the world.

Qantas Airways operates these repatriation flights for the Australian government.

Below is a list of locations where DFAT has facilitated a repatriation flight in recent months:

London
Frankfurt
Chennai
Delhi
Vancouver
Johannesburg
Los Angeles
Istanbul

These repatriation flights almost always fly to Darwin and you would complete your 14 day quarantine at the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

In order to be eligible for these flights, you do need to be registered with DFAT.

You can register with DFAT at the below link:

DFAT Registration Portal

DFAT will notify you by email or phone if there is a repatriation flight on offer that might be suitable for you.

The various embassies and high commissions also have Facebook pages where they post about these repatriation flights as well. If you do use Facebook, it is recommended that you do follow the relevant embassy/high commission Facebook page.

If you are considering flying on one of these repatriation flights, you may wish to be mindful of the following considerations:

1. The Howard Springs quarantine facility only has single rooms with a single bed. Couples and families are usually accommodated in neighbouring rooms.

2. Due to the fact that the rooms are single rooms, the Northern Territory do not give discounts for parties of two or more like other states do for quarantine. One passenger is $2500. Two passengers is $5000. This makes quarantining in Darwin at Howard Springs potentially more expensive than in other states.

3. You are required to organise further transport from Darwin to your final destination city at your own expense, if Darwin is not your final destination. DFAT do provide a discount code that allows you to obtain a discount from Qantas for your onward domestic flights, although these domestic flights can still be 200-400 AUD per person.
 
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Cabin Classes and Fare Classes


Virtually all international airlines offer at least two cabin classes - business class and economy class. However, some airlines also offer first class and/or premium economy class.

Airlines divide each of their cabin classes into multiple fare classes, each denoted by an alphabet letter. First class may have 3-4 fare classes, business class may have 5-6 fare classes, premium economy class may have 3-5 fare classes and economy class may have 10-15 fare classes on average.

You may see the fare class shown:

1. when you are booking flights during the booking process
2. on your itinerary or e-ticket after booking your flights
3. when viewing your itinerary in the Manage Booking function of your airline's website

It will often be shown as something similar to the examples below:

First (A), Business (C), Economy (B)
or
First - A, Business - D, Economy - S

Due to the relatively small number of passengers allowed onto each flight into Australia, as a general rule, all airlines currently operating passenger services into Australia mostly only take passengers that are booked into the higher fare classes in each cabin.

The lower the fare class you are booked in, the higher your chance of being bumped/offloaded.

If you are booked in a low to middle range fare class, you are likely to be bumped/offloaded from your flight(s) as your departure date gets closer.

If you are booked in a higher range fare class, you may make it past the initial rounds of bumping/offloading, although you may still have a chance of being bumped/offloaded closer to your departure date once the Australian government confirms how many passengers they will accept on each specific arrival date.

Below is a list of the airlines currently operating passenger services to Australia with the cabin classes that they operate to Australia and fare classes within each cabin class.

The ranking order of the fare classes is the left-most is the highest fare class down to the right-most being the lowest fare class.

The bolded AND underlined fare classes are the fare classes that are quite reliable. The fare classes that are only bolded have a reasonable chance of making it to Australia although there's still a reasonable chance of being bumped/offloaded.

Airline
Code​
First​
Business​
Premium Economy​
Economy​
Aircalin
SB​
-​
J D I O
W P F
Y B S H K L R U M Q V N T A C X E G​
Air Niugini
PX​
-​
J C Z D I
-​
Y M B L H Q N T K V O U G X E​
All Nippon Airways
NH​
-​
J C D Z P
G E N
Y B M U H Q V W S L K​
American Airlines
AA​
-​
J C D R I U​
W P X​
Y B H K M L G V S N Q O T E​
Asiana Airlines
OZ​
-​
J C D Z U P I R​
-​
Y B M H E Q K S V W T L G X N​
Cathay Pacific
CX​
-​
J C D P I U​
W R E T​
Y B H K M L V G S N Q O X​
China Airlines
CI​
-​
J C D
W U A E​
Y B M K V T R Q H N L​
China Eastern Airlines
MU​
F U​
J C D Q I​
W P​
Y B M E H K L N R S V T G Z​
China Southern Airlines
CZ​
F
J C D I O​
-​
Y P B M H K U A L Q E V Z T N R G X​
Delta Airlines
DL​
-​
J C D I Z
P A G
W S Y B M H Q K L U T X V E​
Emirates
EK​
F A Z​
J C I O H D​
-​
Y E R W M B U K Q L T V X N​
Etihad Airways
EY​
-​
J C D W Z
-​
Y B H K M Q L V U E T​
EVA Air
BR​
-​
C J D
-​
Y B M H Q S W V A​
Garuda Indonesia
GA​
-​
J C D I
-​
Y B M K N G Q T V S H​
Japan Airlines
JL​
-​
J C D I X U​
-​
Y B H K M L V S N Q O G T​
Korean Air
KE​
-​
J C D I R Z
-​
Y B M S H E K L U Q N T G​
Malaysia Airlines
MH​
-​
J C D Z I U​
-​
Y B H K M L V S N Q O G X​
Qatar Airways
QR​
-​
J C D I R U​
-​
Y B H K M L V S N Q T O X​
Scoot
TR​
-​
-​
Z C J D I​
R P F A S Y B M H W N X O T K L Q E V G​
Singapore Airlines
SQ​
F A O​
Z C J U D I​
S T P L R​
Y B E M H W Q N V G K X​
SriLankan Airlines
UL​
-​
J C D I U​
-​
Y B P H K W M E L R V S N Q O X​
United Airlines
UA​
-​
J C D Z P
-​
Y B M E U H Q V W S T L K G N​
XiamenAir
MF​
-​
J C D I O
-​
Y H B M L K N Q V T R U G S Z E​

Related Articles​


Matt Graham has also authored an article covering some aspects not covered in this guide. His article is linked below.

How to Successfully Return to Australia in June 2021
 
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Fare Types


When making a flight booking online, you may encounter a number of fare types for the cabin class that you have selected.

These fare types will have different names at each airline. Examples of fare type names are Sale, Saver, Semi Flexible and Flexible.

Due to the relatively small number of passengers allowed onto each flight into Australia, as a general rule, on the majority of airlines you need to at the very minimum book the highest fare type available which is usually called Flexible, or Fully Flex, or Fully Flexible.

These Flexible/Fully Flex/Fully Flexible fare types correspond to the 3-4 fare classes that rank the highest in each cabin class listed in the previous section.

Using Singapore Airlines as an example in economy class:

Singapore Airlines have these fare classes for economy class (from the Cabin Classes and Fare Classes section):

Y B E M H W Q N V G K

Singapore Airlines have four fare types on their website and the corresponding fare classes are:

Economy Flexi - Y B E <- you need to be at the very minimum booked on this fare type
Economy Standard - M H W
Economy Value - Q N
Economy Lite - V K
 
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Flexible Economy vs. Full Fare Economy vs. Economy Plus vs. Premium Economy


You may have heard of terms such as "flexible economy", "full fare economy", "economy plus" or even "premium economy".

To break these terms down:

Premium economy

Premium economy class is actually separate cabin class of its own. The premium economy class cabin is almost always in front of the economy class cabin and the premium economy class cabin will feature larger wider seats, more recline, larger tray tables and often better catering.

Economy plus

Economy plus is only used by a small number of airlines (mainly airlines based in China or the US) where they designated a few rows at the front of their economy class cabin to have extra legroom. These rows are known as economy plus seats.

Full fare economy

Full fare economy is otherwise known as fares that book into fare class Y, the highest possible fare class in economy, on the majority of airlines. Essentially full fare economy is the highest possible fare you can book in economy and it is the highest possible fare within the "flexible economy" fare type.

Flexible economy

Flexible economy is a fare type that encompasses usually 3-4 fare classes, at the upper end of the economy fare class spectrum. See the previous section Fare Types to see where this fare type sits.
 
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Fare Pricing


If you have not yet booked flights and you are wondering how much you should be expecting to pay, please reference the below lists to gain an understanding of what you should be expecting to pay.

Unfortunately with the COVID-19 pandemic there are many scams, large ticket mark ups, overcharging and other dishonest behaviour being played out in the travel industry.

If you have already booked flights and you are wondering whether you have been overcharged for the ticket itself, you can compare what you paid to the below lists to see if you have been overcharged.

The lists below show the maximum ticket prices (ie. full fare) for each cabin class and is for one adult travelling in September/October 2021 one way to Sydney. Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth are generally +/- 100 AUD of the Sydney price. July and August 2021 may be more expensive as it is northern summer high season.

Please note that it is common to be charged a booking or service fee on top of the ticket cost. Booking or service fees are not included in the below amounts.

Singapore Airlines​


Origin
Business​
Economy​
Amsterdam
5307 EUR​
1827 EUR​
Frankfurt
6355 EUR​
2943 EUR​
London
4927 GBP​
1414 GBP​
Paris
5322 EUR​
1817 EUR​
Dubai
14300 AED​
6860 AED​
Tokyo
352210 JPY​
163210 JPY​
Singapore
4874 SGD​
1672 SGD​
Los Angeles
11651 USD​
3288 USD​
New York
11243 USD​
3151 USD (Premium Economy)​

Qatar Airways​


Origin
Business​
Economy​
Amsterdam
6011 EUR​
1810 EUR​
Frankfurt
6122 EUR​
3048 EUR​
London
6166 GBP​
2666 GBP​
Paris
6490 EUR​
3013 EUR​
Los Angeles
12872 USD​
4897 USD​
New York
14270 USD​
5221 USD​

Emirates​


Origin
Business​
Economy​
Amsterdam
5657 EUR​
1904 EUR​
Frankfurt
5543 EUR​
1596 EUR​
London
5330 GBP​
1368 GBP​
Paris
5342 EUR​
1856 EUR​
Dubai
23880 AED​
6270 AED​
Los Angeles
13842 USD​
4510 USD​
New York
13065 USD​
4628 USD​
 
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Involuntary Refund Policies


If one or more of the flights that you have booked gets cancelled or you get bumped/offloaded, you may be entitled to a full refund on an involuntary basis.

These airlines will refund your ticket back to your original form of payment without a refund penalty, if any flight on your ticket is cancelled​


All Nippon Airways
American Airlines
Asiana Airlines
Cathay Pacific
China Airlines
China Eastern Airlines
China Southern Airlines
Delta Airlines
Emirates
Etihad Airways
EVA Air
Japan Airlines
Korean Air
Qatar Airways
Singapore Airlines
SriLankan Airlines
United Airlines
XiamenAir

Note for Etihad Airways: Refundable without penalty only if booked via an Australia/USA/Canada based agency OR the ticket's first flight originates from Europe

-----

These airlines will refund your ticket back to your original form of payment without a refund penalty, if any flight on your ticket is cancelled, but only after 1 year has lapsed since you booked​


Aircalin

-----

These airlines will refund your ticket back to your original form of payment if you are willing to pay the refund penalty and the fare purchased allows for refunds​


Air Niugini
Garuda Indonesia
Malaysia Airlines
 
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Checked Baggage Allowances


If you are moving back to Australia permanently/long term, an important consideration is what your checked baggage allowance will be.

Airlines use either the weight or piece concept for checked baggage allowances. This can result in wildly different checked baggage allowances.

This is less of an issue if you are flying from North America or South America as baggage allowances for flights originating from North America or South America are generally 1-2 pieces at 23kg per piece (with some exceptions).

However, if you are flying from Asia, Europe or Africa, it is more common for airlines to use the weight concept. Unfortunately the excess baggage rate with the weight concept is per kg and this can mean that checking in just one extra bag at 20kg may set you back quite a few hundred if not thousands of dollars.

If you are wanting to check in extra checked baggage to avoid having to ship/freight it separately, it is better to look at airlines that utilise the piece concept for their flights to Asia, Europe and Africa. With the piece concept, excess baggage is charged per piece and each piece is allowed to be up to 23kg (economy and premium economy) or 32kg (business). Usually the excess baggage rate per 23kg or 32kg piece will be 300-400 AUD, which is far cheaper than if you had to pay per kg with the weight concept.

Below is a list of airlines who are operating passenger services to Australia and whether they use the weight or piece concept.

North America/South America​


All Nippon Airways - Pieces
American Airlines - Pieces
Delta Airlines - Pieces
Emirates - Pieces
Etihad Airways - Pieces
Japan Airlines - Pieces
Qatar Airways - Pieces
Singapore Airlines - Pieces
United Airlines - Pieces
Cathay Pacific - Pieces
Asiana Airlines - Pieces
China Airlines - Pieces
Korean Air - Pieces

Asia/Europe/Africa​


All Nippon Airways - Pieces
Emirates - Weight (except Africa which is Pieces)
Etihad Airways - Weight
Japan Airlines - Pieces
Qatar Airways - Weight (except Africa which is Pieces)
Singapore Airlines - Weight
SriLankan Airlines - Weight
XiamenAir - Pieces
Cathay Pacific - Weight
Asiana Airlines - Pieces
China Airlines - Weight
China Eastern Airlines - Pieces
China Southern Airlines - Pieces
Korean Air - Piecess
Aircalin - Pieces
Air Niugini - Weight
Garuda Indonesia - Weight
Malaysia Airlines - Weight
 
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Transit Requirements


Australia is a difficult to reach country, even pre-COVID-19. It is common to have to transit at an intermediate transit port to reach Australia.

Governments at many intermediate transit ports may have imposed conditions that you will need to adhere to, in order to transit that particular port.

As a reminder, it is your responsibility to keep abreast of any changes to en-route requirements for your trip to Australia.

Below are some of the requirements for some of the common transit ports to get to Australia.

Abu Dhabi (AUH)

1. Maximum transit time of 24 hours. Must remain airside.
2. If the transit time exceeds 12 hours, you must have an airside hotel booking.
3. You cannot transit if you have been in/through Bangladesh, Congo, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zambia, Vietnam, Nigeria or South Africa in the previous 14 days.
4. You must have a printed medical certificate with a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test result. The test must have been taken at most 72 hours before departure of the last direct flight to United Arab Emirates and must be from an approved laboratory.

Colombo (CMB)

1. Maximum transit time of 12 hours. Must remain airside.

Doha (DOH)

1. Maximum transit time of 24 hours.

Dubai (DXB)

1. Maximum transit time of 24 hours. Must remain airside.
2. You cannot transit if you have been in/through Bangladesh, Congo, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zambia, Vietnam, Nigeria or South Africa in the previous 14 days.
3. You must have a printed medical certificate with a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test result. The test must have been taken at most 72 hours before departure of the last direct flight to United Arab Emirates and must be from an approved laboratory.

Frankfurt (FRA)

1. Maximum transit time of 24 hours, if arriving from outside the European Union Schengen Zone. Must remain airside.
2. Passengers transiting must have a medical certificate in English/French/German with a negative COVID-19 PCR/antigen/RT-LAMP/TMA test result. The test must have been taken at no more than 72 hours (PCR/RT-LAMP/RMA tests) or no more than 48 hours (antigen tests) before the arrival time of the flight into Frankfurt.

Helsinki (HEL)

1. Maximum transit time of 24 hours, if arriving from outside the European Union Schengen Zone. Must remain airside.

Hong Kong (HKG)

1. Have a connecting flight booked on the same booking AND same ticket. Separate tickets on the same booking fails this requirement.
2. Must receive all boarding passes including the final flight to Australia, at a port prior to Hong Kong.
3. Must have checked baggage tagged all the way to Australia.
4. Maximum transit time of 24 hours. Must remain airside.

Kuala Lumpur (KUL)

1. Maximum transit time of 48 hours. Must remain airside.
2. Must arrive and depart from the same terminal. For example you cannot arrive at KLIA and depart from KLIA2.

Singapore (SIN)

1. Can only transit at Singapore on routes and airline combinations approved by the Singaporean government.
2. Maximum transit time of 48 hours.
3. You cannot transit if you have been in/through Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka within the past 21 days.
4. Passengers aged 3 and over who are transiting must have a medical certificate in English with a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. The test must have been taken at no more than 72 hours before the departure time of the first flight on your ticket.

Tokyo (Haneda) (HND)

1. Maximum transit time of 72 hours. Must remain airside.
2. Cannot fly into Haneda airport and out of Narita airport, or vice versa.

Tokyo (Narita) (NRT)

1. Must transit on the same calendar day. Must remain airside.
2. Cannot fly into Haneda airport and out of Narita airport, or vice versa.
 
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Entry requirements to Australia


There are a few requirements to enter Australia.

For the following:

1. Australian citizens
2. Permanent residents of Australia
3. Immediate family member(s) of an Australian citizen or permanent resident
4. a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia plus their immediate family members
5. a diplomat accredited to Australia, including their immediate family members
6. a person recruited under the Government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme
7. a person who holds a Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa


You must:

1. Have a medical certificate in English with a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. The test must have been taken at no more than 72 hours before the departure time of the first flight on your ticket.
2. Complete an Australia Travel Declaration approximately 72 hours before the departure time of the first flight on your ticket. Link: Australia Travel Declaration
3. Brisbane/Cairns arrivals only: Complete the Queensland International Arrivals Registration form. Link: Queensland International Arrivals Registration
4. Perth arrivals only: Complete the Western Australa G2G Pass application. Link: Western Australa G2G Pass
5. Melbourne arrivals only: Complete the Victoria Quarantine Arrival Form. Link: Victoria Quarantine Arrival Form
6. Adelaide arrivals only: Complete the South Australia Cross Border Travel registration. Link: South Australia Cross Border Travel Registration

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For temporary visa holders of Australia or nationals of other countries

1. Must have a medical certificate in English with a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. The test must have been taken at no more than 72 hours before the departure time of the first flight on your ticket.
2. Must complete an Australia Travel Declaration approximately 72 hours before the departure time of the first flight on your ticket. Link: Australia Travel Declaration
3. Must apply for an exemption with the Australian Border Force to enter Australia. Link: Travel Exemption Portal
4. Brisbane arrivals only: Complete the Queensland International Arrivals Registration form. Link: Queensland International Arrivals Registration
5. Perth arrivals only: Complete the Western Australa G2G Pass application. Link: Western Australa G2G Pass
6. Melbourne arrivals only: Complete the Victoria Quarantine Arrival Form. Link: Victoria Quarantine Arrival Form
7. Adelaide arrivals only: Complete the South Australia Cross Border Travel registration. Link: South Australia Cross Border Travel Registration
 
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Booking online vs. with a travel agent


You may have read on social media or elsewhere on the internet many dividing comments and posts about whether it is better to book online yourself or with a travel agent.

Booking online/over the phone directly with the airline is a great option if you don't wish to engage a travel agency. However, airline representatives don't necessarily have the same level of in depth knowledge as these representatives may be in a foreign call centre. You may need to do your own research on which flights to choose etc. if you were to book directly with the airline. You may need to be prepared to fact check what the airline representatives advise you - there's many times where they are incorrect or outright not telling the truth.

Major chain travel agencies eg. Flight Centre often have a high staff turnover and therefore their consultants often lack long term in depth knowledge and contacts within the industry.

Independent agencies are more likely to have better long term in depth knowledge and contacts. These independent agencies will also be better placed to know which routes/airlines/combinations work and which ones do not. Many independent agencies also have access to seat inventory that is not made available to the general public that you could be missing out on simply because you didn't ask. Travel agencies also have various other tactics that they may be able to use to get you to Australia so it's well worth asking what they could do for you.

Below are some considerations that you may wish to take into account when deciding how you ultimately book:

Booking online​


Advantages

1. You can be in complete control of the booking and the process
2. You can save on a travel agent's booking/service fees
3. You can easily spend as much time as you like 'shopping' between airlines, dates etc.

Disadvantages

1. You are on your own if anything goes wrong, eg. you get bumped, your flight gets completely cancelled
2. You would need to work with your airline(s) directly, which may involve lengthy hold times on the phone or call centre representatives who may be less than helpful
3. You would need to be across all of the various forever changing restrictions and requirements
4. You may be in for a lot of research and fact checking work

Booking with a travel agent​


Note: The below advantages/disadvantages assume that the travel agent is highly experienced with inbound travel to Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic and not just any travel agent that you may come across (particularly the large chains such as Flight Centre).

Advantages

1. You have a single point of contact for all your questions and issues
2. There is no need for you to have to contact the airline(s) directly before you fly
3. The travel agent is responsible for getting you booked onto another flight if you get bumped or your flight gets completely cancelled
4. The travel agent is there to 'bat' for you in the event something goes wrong
5. The travel agent can provide advice on the best course of action for your circumstances
6. You can draw on the knowledge of someone who is experienced with the various forever changing restrictions and requirements
7. You can draw on the knowledge of someone who knows what airlines/routes/etc. will work or won't work
8. You do not need to spend hours researching all the various options
9. Travel agents can hold seats for you for a few days (on average) so that you can check with your work, landlord etc. in regards to whether you can depart on the date you have chosen
10. Travel agents may have access to seats that you may not be able to find online yourself.

Disadvantages

1. You have less complete control of the booking and the process (ie. you're more reliant on the travel agent to do something for you)
2. You would most likely be required to pay a booking or service fee for the travel agent's services
3. There may be further service fees if you intend to make changes to your booking
 
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Choosing a good travel agent


If you are looking for a good travel agent to book with for your trip to Australia, you may well be overwhelmed by how many are out there and often many may be scammers.

Below are some tips for looking for a good travel agent as well as a checklist to see if your chosen travel agent is ideal for you.

Tips:

1. Look for a travel agent that is based in either the country that you are travelling from, or in Australia. Travel agents based in other countries would have minimal experience dealing with all the forever changing restrictions and requirements for travel to Australia.

2. Look for an independent travel agent. Whilst there are some good travel agents that work for the major chains eg. Flight Centre, Travel Associates, Helloworld etc. many of them are usually not as experienced. The logic here is, if a travel agent can operate independently and doesn't need a major chain's marketing/advertising to bring in clients, chances are they would have the experience and clients otherwise they would not survive.

3. Look for testimonials/reviews on third party websites or on social media where you need to have an identity (eg. a forum user, or social media account), rather than the travel agent's own website. The testimonials/reviews should attest to their experience in handling inbound travel to Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. There's many fake testimonials and reviews online. When it is a travel agent's own website, you simply cannot be sure that it's a real testimonial or review.

4. Shop around. Ticket prices can vary between travel agents and some travel agents may charge booking or service fees per passenger (even for infants and children) whereas others may charge less overall for larger groups eg. families so there could be a large difference in just the travel agent's fees alone.

5. Check how contactable the travel agent is - Do they respond relatively quickly? Are they contactable at a range of hours?

6. Check how knowledgeable they are by asking questions - look for signs of evading/avoiding the question or hints of dishonesty (eg. not being upfront).

7. Ask for their IATA agency number and verify that it is valid at the IATA CheckACode tool: IATA CheckACode
 

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Travel agent booking and service fees


Travel agents may potentially charge a range of booking and service fees. Some of these fees are fees passed on from the airline.

Below are some examples of what fees exist and what you might expect to pay.

New booking fee - this would be charged when you make a new booking. Typically for inbound travel to Australia this might be 200-400 AUD per passenger. Some travel agents may charge less overall per passenger when it is a larger group eg. families.

Airline change fee - this is the change fee charged by the airline for changing your ticket. At the moment the majority of carriers are waiving these change fees so there should be no airline change fee.

Travel agent change fee - this is a service fee charged by the travel agent for making the change(s) to your booking for you. Typically this could range from 20 AUD to 100 AUD per passenger. Some travel agents may charge less overall per passenger when it is a larger group eg. families.

Airline cancellation/refund fee - this is the cancellation/refund fee charged by the airline for cancelling your flights and refunding your ticket. These fees can vary wildly from 100 AUD to hundreds of dollars.

Travel agent cancellation/refund fee - this is a service fee charged by the travel agent for processing the cancellation your flights and refunding your ticket. Typically this could range from 20 AUD to 300 AUD per passenger. Some travel agents may charge less overall per passenger when it is a larger group eg. families.
 

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Common travel agent scams/dishonest tactics


Marking up of ticket prices​


Some travel agents can be a little dishonest and try to make their booking fee look cheaper by marking up the ticket price instead. Others may simply bundle their fees into the ticket price and won't charge a booking fee at all.

Airlines do not allow a travel agent to mark up a ticket price. Travel agents can charge booking and service fees on top of a ticket however they should not be bundled into the ticket price nor should the ticket price be marked up to hide their fees.

Whilst the above two practices are a little on the dishonest side, what is important is to pay attention to the total cost you are paying (that is, ticket price + booking/service fees) when making a comparison between what travel agent A and travel agent B are charging.

Booking return tickets when you only want a one way​


Some travel agents may claim that booking a return ticket is cheaper than booking a one way. Sometimes this can be true, whereas at other times it is not.

Where the scam is, is when the travel agent claims that the return is cheaper than a one way when it is not cheaper.

These travel agents will deliberately book you on a return ticket, usually with flights on the return portion that have a good chance of being cancelled. By the time those return flights do get cancelled, you will have already reached Australia and potentially long forgotten about those return flights that were booked for you. The travel agent then submits the return portion of the ticket for a refund and pockets the refund.

You can potentially avoid this scam by checking your booking on your airline's website using the Manage Booking function, preferably before you pay the travel agent. The travel agent will likely only put London to Sydney on their invoice and itinerary, however if you go to the airline's website and enter your booking reference, you may find you actually have confirmed flights for London to Sydney as well as Bangkok to London.

If this is your situation, question your travel agent as to why those extra flights are there when they should not be - especially if you were not told about them.

Travel agents that don't exist in the country that they say they are based in​


There are many travel agents who may claim they are based in country A when they are really based in country B. They are often actually based in another country like India, Sri Lanka or somewhere in the Middle East.

You can potentially identify these travel agents by checking the following:

1. Organise a phone call with them to check them out.

Is the phone call crackly or bad quality?
Do they have a strong accent that is not in line with accents in the country they say they're in?
Does the name they use in emails match what they answer the phone as?
Are you able to speak to the person that you have been emailing/chatting with?

2. Check if their use of language, grammar and spelling is correct. If they are based on a foreign country, English may not be their strong point and this may be a sign that they are in a foreign country.

3. Ask for their IATA agency number and verify that it is valid and registered for the country they say they are in, at the IATA CheckACode tool: IATA CheckACode

4. Google the travel agent. You may find references to other countries such as India or Sri Lanka which may arouse suspicion.
 

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What airlines look at when bumping passengers


Airlines may look at a variety of factors when deciding who to bump off a flight.

These may include, in no particular order:

1. The fare class/fare type you are ticketed on (sale, saver, flexi etc.)
2. Frequent flyer status if you have any
3. Actual fare paid (ignoring the taxes)
4. Group size (families are preferenced due to children not counting towards the arrivals cap)
 

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How to minimise your chances of being bumped


Many people will experience being bumped off flights to Australia due to the government's low arrivals caps that have been in place since mid 2020.

Generally, the people who are being bumped from flights are the ones who:

1. Book early in advance (often months out)
2. Book a really cheap fare (due to booking early in advance)
3. Book airlines that aren't actually operating passenger services to Australia
4. Book flights that aren't likely to operate, even if the airline themselves are operating passenger services to Australia

There are a number of things that you can do to minimise your chances of being bumped:

1. Book at least a fully flexible fare type if booking in Economy. The naming may differ between airlines. In premium economy and business it generally does not matter what fare type you book - airlines have mostly avoided bumping passengers in premium cabins.

2. If you are booking early (defined as > 8 weeks before departure), check to see if the flight numbers you are booking are actually operating currently. If they are, there's a good chance they'll operate come your turn to fly. Good sites to use to check this are FlightStats, FlightAware and FlightRadar24.

3. Check that the airline you are choosing for your final flight from the last port before Australia is in the list in the Commercial Flights section above.

4. Book with a reputable independent (non-chain) travel agency that is experienced in inbound travel to Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic or directly with the airline.
 
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Common booking issues to be aware of


There's a number of pitfalls to be aware of when booking your flights to Australia.

Online travel agents, aggregators and flight comparison websites​


Many online travel agents (eg. Expedia, GoToGate etc.) may well let you book flights to Australia, however many will display routings that can't be flown due to government restrictions. You may also encounter airlines and flights that just won't end up operating (see the list of operating airlines further above).

If you book flights with an online travel agent, refunds may take a long time to arrive, or not arrive at all. It may take you a lengthy amount of time chasing refunds in the event that there's a need to refund your ticket.

Routings that can't be flown​


A number of sites, eg. Skyscanner display routings such as London to Los Angeles to Sydney. This routing as an example currently cannot be flown due to the United States not allowing passengers from most of Europe to enter the United States except if you are a United States citizen. As the United States does not have airside transit facilities, you must enter the United States, which you cannot do when travelling from Europe unless you are a United States citizen.

There are similar routings via Canada that sometimes will be displayed. Vancouver is the only Canadian port with airside transit facilities so you can only transit in Canada via Vancouver. Therefore a routing like London to Toronto to Vancouver to Sydney would not work.

Airlines Schedules​


The majority of airlines still have their pre-COVID-19 schedules loaded. Airlines are only really firming their schedules about 6-8 weeks before departure so it is prudent to check that the airline you are flying is actually operating passenger service to Australia. There is a list further above that details these airlines.

This also makes it more difficult to pick flights. If you book early, well in advance, you will see lots of flight options. However it is unlikely the majority of them work and so it is prudent to confirm that the flights you are picking, have been operating historically.

Check to see if the flight numbers you are booking are actually operating currently. If they are, there's a good chance they'll operate come your turn to fly. Good sites to use to check this are FlightStats, FlightAware and FlightRadar24.

Conflicting negative COVID-19 test requirements​


Some countries require a negative COVID-19 test result in order to transit. However, some of these countries have different timings for when the test sample needs to be taken when compared to Australia.

A current example is Germany requiring a negative test result where the test sample is taken no more than 72 hours before your scheduled arrival into Germany. Meanwhile Australia only requires your test sample to be taken 72 hours before the scheduled departure of your first flight. Germany has the more restrictive timing requirement here and therefore that is the one that needs to be followed.

Some countries also accept other test types, eg. antigen tests. Not all countries accept these. Australia for example requires a negative PCR test, however Germany is happy to accept antigen, PCR, RT-LAMP or TMA test results. Australia's requirement for a PCR test is the more restrictive requirement and therefore Australia's requirement should be followed for the test type.
 

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Monitoring your booking


What you should do once you have booked​


Once you have booked, it is strongly recommended that you check your booking regularly on your airline's website.

You want to be looking for cancellations, schedule changes etc. on a regular basis as it means you will be able to react sooner if you see a cancellation or other problem before the airline has sent you an email to notify you.

If you do see a cancellation, if you react sooner, then you will be more likely to get a new flight sooner than other people will.

What to do when you do get bumped​


If you booked directly with the airline

Contact the airline as soon as possible. If your airline's local office is closed, try their office in another country where it might be business hours. The airlne's website will most likely have a contacts page that lists the phone numbers for their offices in other countries.

If you booked with a travel agency

Contact the travel agent as soon as possible. Reputable travel agents would most likely already know that you have been bumped as travel agents receive automated notifications directly from the airline, often before the airline might email you.

-----

The sooner that you make contact, the better your outcome will be in terms of getting booked onto a new flight that is not too far into the future.
 

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Closer to departure


3-4 days before departure​


When it is getting close to your departure, you may want to check that you have fulfilled all of the current requirements for trip to Australia.

Ensure that you have:

1. Checked the transit requirements for the ports that you will be transiting
2. Checked the entry requirements for Australia, including completing the required declarations and forms
3. Completed your COVID-19 test requirements

On the day of departure​


It is recommended that you arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before departure, especially if you are not an Australian citizen.

Check in staff will need to call the Australian Border Force to obtain authorisation to uplift you as a passenger if you are not an Australian citizen. It may take some time to complete these formalities as the Australian Border Force may not necessarily answer the phone immediately.
 

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