This article contains an updated summary of the most important coronavirus news that is relevant to Australian frequent flyers as of Monday, 6 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.
This article was last updated at 9am (AEST) on 6 April 2020.
Qantas and Virgin Australia to operate scheduled international repatriation flights
Qantas and Virgin Australia will operate limited scheduled repatriation flights to Auckland, Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles over the coming month. The flights will operate to Melbourne and Brisbane, reportedly to ease the load of hotel quarantine away from NSW. (In the case of Qantas’ London flights, they will operate from London to Melbourne via Perth but no passengers will disembark in Perth.)
Only Economy class tickets will be available, with set airfares, and frequent flyer benefits (including the earning of points and status credits) will not apply. For customers on Qantas flights, there will be no in-flight entertainment. The flights are supported by the Australian government, who will cover any loss made by the airlines in operating these flights. Tickets can only be purchased on the websites of Qantas and Virgin Australia, respectively.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Virgin (and QF) re-starting overseas flights
Meanwhile, more international airlines have operated repatriation flights to/from Australia in recent days. The first of several special KLM flights from Australia to the Netherlands departed Sydney yesterday, and a Nepal Airlines A330 arrived in Brisbane last Thursday. El Al also operated a repatriation flight to Melbourne last week. More unusual flights are expected in the coming weeks, such as Air New Zealand flights to Frankfurt and Austrian Airlines flights to New Zealand.
Qantas stops through-checking luggage on international connections via Sydney
Qantas will no longer currently through-check baggage from domestic flights within Australia to international connections in Sydney, even if the flights are on the same ticket. Customers arriving from a Qantas domestic flight in Sydney are now required to collect their luggage and take it to the international terminal to re-check it with the operating international airline. So, if you’re travelling via Sydney in the coming weeks/months, allow plenty of time for the connection!
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Sydney: No more through check of bags e.g. QF > BA or QF > QR?
Emirates & Etihad Airways resume limited international flights today
Emirates and Etihad Airways have been given permission by the UAE government to resume limited passenger flights from today. Etihad Airways will resume limited passenger services from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne, Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Seoul and Amsterdam. However, only the flights to Seoul, Singapore, Manila and Jakarta are currently available to book.
Emirates will now fly four times per week from Dubai to London, and three times weekly to Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels and Zurich. These will initially serve as outbound repatriation flights to allow citizens of other countries to return home from the United Arab Emirates.
On the other hand, Cathay Pacific has announced even further cuts to its flying schedules after flying just 582 passengers in one day. Yes, that’s the total number of passengers for the entire airline. They could have all fitted inside a single Emirates two-class Airbus A380 – and there still would have been spare seats.
Delta, United, LATAM Airlines status extensions
Delta Air Lines, United and LATAM Airlines have now added themselves to the list of airlines providing frequent flyers with a 12-month status extension. Delta is also extending Sky Club memberships and upgrade credits by six months.
Delta was the first of the major U.S. airlines to announce 12-month status extensions for frequent flyers. United copied shortly after, so it is hard to imagine American Airlines would not follow soon. The “big 3” U.S. airlines are often like sheep – when one airline makes the first move, the other two usually copy.
Meanwhile, Flying Blue (the frequent flyer program of Air France, KLM and various other affiliated airlines) says it will not expire any miles between now and the end of 2020.
Qantas comps some Points Club members another year
Some newly-minted Qantas Points Club members whose status would have expired at the end of March, have had their Points Club membership extended for another year. Affected members have been contacted by Qantas by email.
China’s aviation industry slowly recovering
As things in China slowly start to return to normal (or what’s left of normality, anyway) air travel is slowly starting to pick up. But to stop the spread of imported COVID-19 cases, China is placing severe restrictions on foreign airlines. They may only operate one route to mainland China, and only one flight per week on that route. And these flights may not have more than 75% of seats sold, so that social distancing can be applied on the aircraft.
Australian Frequent Flyer has set up a new forum for news & discussion about COVID-19: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Discussion