There have been yet more developments over the weekend as the coronavirus situation evolves. Several Australian states and territories are now imposing self-quarantine for arriving travellers, and the Prime Minister is now advising against non-essential travel within Australia. Meanwhile, Emirates has announced that it will suspend almost all passenger flights from Wednesday, and Singapore & Taiwan will shortly ban all transiting passengers.
This article contains an updated summary of the most important coronavirus news that is relevant to Australian frequent flyers. 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.
This article was last updated at 7am (AEDT) on 23 March 2020.
Latest Smartraveller advice
A good place to get travel advice updates from the Australian government is the Smartraveller website.
The Smartraveller advice as of 18 March 2020 continues to apply:
We now advise all Australians: do not travel overseas at this time. This is our highest advice level (level 4 of 4).
If you are already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.
Regardless of your destination, age or health, our advice is do not travel at this time.
As more countries close their borders or introduce travel restrictions, overseas travel is becoming more complex and difficult. You may not be able to return to Australia when you had planned to. Consider whether you have access to health care and support systems if you get sick while overseas. If you decide to return to Australia, do so as soon as possible. Commercial options may become less available.
WA, SA and Tasmanian borders are effectively closed
The states of Western Australia and South Australia, and the Northern Territory, are introducing strict new border controls. From tomorrow, anyone arriving in these states or territories will need to self-isolate for 14 days. In WA, essential workers are exempt.
From 4pm today, anyone arriving in South Australia will also need to fill out a form and provide information about where they plan to self-quarantine.
These are in addition to the self-isolation requirements introduced by Tasmania last week. Meanwhile, other states are preparing for a shutdown of non-essential activity.
Domestic air travel now discouraged
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, meanwhile, has advised Australians to avoid non-essential air travel and cancel their interstate holidays to slow the spread of coronavirus. It comes just days after the government advised domestic travel was still safe.
As a result, we can unfortunately expect more cuts to Qantas and Virgin Australia domestic flights in the coming days.
Emirates to cancel most flights
Emirates announced overnight that it will end all passenger flights after Wednesday, 25 March. Then, just hours later, it backtracked on this and said that a very limited schedule of flights to a small number of countries would be retained “until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand”. These countries are Australia, the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, USA and Canada.
Within Australia and New Zealand, Emirates had already announced that it is suspending all flights to Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland and Christchurch, but had planned to retain flights to Sydney and Perth.
Visas are no longer being issued for the United Arab Emirates, so most passengers currently being flown by Emirates are purely transit passengers.
Join the discussion: Emirates Announced Suspending all PAX operations from March 25 – Then Backtracked
Other airlines cancelling flights
South African Airways is suspending all flights, including from Perth to Johannesburg, except for the Johannesburg-Cape Town route.
Meanwhile, United Airlines is suspending all long-haul flights except for six routes which will continue to operate daily in April and May. United’s Sydney-San Francisco route is one of the routes that will continue, and this will be the only regular passenger route between Australia and the United States to operate during this time.
More travel restrictions introduced by other countries
More countries have heightened their travel restrictions. From tomorrow, Singapore and Taiwan will ban all international transit passengers.
Meanwhile, visas-on-arrival are no longer available in Bali and anyone arriving in Vietnam will be quarantined in a government facility for 14 days. Hawaii, too, has introduced a 14-day self-isolation requirement to arriving travellers.
IATA has published a full list of government measures relating to coronavirus.
Accor ALL to credit 50% of required nights and points for 2020 status qualification
Accor’s hotel loyalty program, Accor ALL, has announced that it will credit current elite members with of the nights and points they would normally need to requalify for their status this year. This comes weeks after many other hotel chains announced complimentary status extensions.
Australian Frequent Flyer has set up a new forum for news & discussion about COVID-19: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Discussion