This article contains an updated summary of the most important coronavirus news that is relevant to Australian frequent flyers as of Friday, 17 April 2020. It specifically covers the implications of COVID-19 in terms of travel and loyalty programs. For the latest health advice, we recommend checking Australian government updates and the latest World Health Organization advice.
Australian government to subsidise domestic flights
The Australian government will underwrite limited domestic services on Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia for at least the next 8 weeks. The $165 million package will ensure domestic air connectivity is retained at a time when it is not commercially viable for most domestic flights to operate.
Virgin Australia suspends share trading
Virgin Australia has suspended share trading for 7 days as it considers the way forward. The airline’s future remains uncertain and voluntary administration cannot be ruled out as it continues lobbying the federal government for a loan.
Virgin Australia flew non-stop from Paris to Brisbane this week
A Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER has flown non-stop from Paris to Brisbane, touching down in the Queensland capital at 1.37pm on Wednesday. The flight time was 19 hours and 45 minutes. But there were no passengers on board; this was a ferry flight to bring the aircraft home after a French government charter.
More airline status extensions
American Airlines has predictably joined most of the other U.S. carriers in offering 12-month status extensions to all AAdvantage elite members.
Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club and the Air France/KLM Flying Blue programs have increased their offers to members. They are also now offering 12-month status extensions, which seems to have become the industry standard.
No more government assistance for South African Airways
South African Airways is likely to be the next COVID-19 casualty after the South African government decided it will stop funding the failing airline. Debt-ridden South African Airways has already been technically bankrupt since 2018 and announced it would slash many routes in February.
LifeMiles won’t expire this year
Avianca’s LifeMiles frequent flyer program has announced that no miles will expire until the end of 2020. This is good news for grounded LifeMiles members, as LifeMiles normally expire if you don’t earn at least one point every 12 months.
Emirates rolls out pre-flight COVID-19 tests
Emirates has introduced a new service at Dubai International Airport, offering COVID-19 tests at check-in for passengers flying to destinations that require a medical clearance certificate. The first trial took place on Wednesday, with passengers tested before boarding a flight to Tunis. Test results were available within 10 minutes.
Emirates has resumed limited scheduled passenger flights from Dubai to London, Manila, Frankfurt, Algiers, Taipei and Chicago.
easyJet temporarily reduces checked baggage charges to under $2/bag
European low-cost carrier easyJet is offering checked baggage on all flights, including bikes, skis, tents, golf clubs and surfboards, for just 99 pence (~$1.95) for all new bookings made until midnight on 16 April, U.K. time. The promo is aimed at generating some forward bookings at a time of very low demand.
Lonely Planet closes offices
Lonely Planet will stop publishing its magazine and new inspirational travel titles, and has closed its Melbourne and London offices “almost entirely”. Lonely Planet guide books have been a staple for travellers for decades. But it seems the company has become yet another victim of the COVID-19 travel shutdown.
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