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 8am (AEDT) on 27 March 2020.
Latest Smartraveller advice
A good place to get travel advice updates from the Australian government is the Smartraveller website.
Effective from 25 March, there is now a ban on Australians leaving the country. Here is an excerpt of the latest Smartraveller advice as of 26 March 2020:
On 24 March the Prime Minister announced a ban on all overseas travel, with few exceptions.
This is on top of our standing advice from 18 March to not travel overseas at this time.
While there are still commercial options available to return to Australia, take them.
Many Australian state borders closed
Queensland has now closed its state borders, following the closure of WA, SA, NT and TAS border closures earlier in the week and last week. Most people arriving in these states (and territories) will now need to self-isolate for 14 days, and heavy fines apply for non-compliance – although the rules differ from state to state.
NSW, VIC and ACT have not (yet) closed their state borders, but anyone arriving in these states from overseas is still being required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Most domestic flights getting cancelled
Virgin Australia will cancel 90% of its regular domestic flights from next week as state borders are closed, while all Tigerair flights were already suspended on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Regional Express (Rex) will cancel most domestic flights except a limited number of state government-backed routes within Queensland from 6 April.
Qantas and Jetstar have yet to announce further domestic flight cuts at the time of writing, but this is likely to happen soon.
Domestic airport lounges closed; Qantas Club to extend paid memberships
Since Monday, all domestic Qantas Club and Virgin Australia airport lounges are now closed due to new government social distancing rules. Qantas says that it will contact Qantas Club members next week regarding extensions to paid memberships.
Qantas extends validity of credit vouchers
With it looking increasingly likely that the COVID-19 pandemic is not going away soon, Qantas has announced that it will increase the validity of credit vouchers for passengers with existing bookings that no longer wish to travel.
The offer to cancel and receive a credit voucher, without penalty, is now valid for existing bookings for travel until 31 July 2020. In addition, the flight credit will now be valid until 31 December 2021. This offer has also been extended, and you can now cancel for a Qantas credit voucher until 30 April 2020.
Qatar Airways to increase flights to Australia
Most airlines are currently suspending flights to Australia, due to the government banning overseas travel. In addition to the other airlines that have already stopped flights, Etihad, Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Japan Airlines are now being added to this list. Meanwhile, Ryanair in Europe has cancelled all flights and suspended operations.
But with Doha still open for transiting passengers, Qatar Airways plans to increase flights to Australia from next week. This includes the launch of a new flight from Doha to Brisbane.
British Airways reducing tier point requirements
Government assistance for U.S. airlines
U.S. airlines are set to receive government bailouts as the COVID-19 shutdowns affect their ongoing viability. This could involve the U.S. government taking a stake in these airlines.
Australian Frequent Flyer has set up a new forum for news & discussion about COVID-19: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Discussion