Emirates and Etihad Airways are both resuming commercial passenger flights to and from Australia. Qatar Airways, meanwhile, is also making a return to Brisbane in May 2020.
Etihad Airways flights from Melbourne to London
From today, Etihad will operate one flight per week from Melbourne to London via Abu Dhabi. The flight will operate on Fridays from Melbourne to London, beginning on 15 May 2020. In the other direction, flights will operate on Thursdays from London to Melbourne from 21 May 2020. Today’s Melbourne-London service will be operated by a Boeing 777, but all other flights going forward will be on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners with Economy and Business seats available.
As transits through the United Arab Emirates are still technically not allowed, the same aircraft will be used all the way from Melbourne to London. Passengers will be required to remain on board while the aircraft is refuelled in Abu Dhabi.
Tickets can be booked on the Etihad website. A one-way ticket from Melbourne to London costs $1,563 in Economy or $8,444 in Business class. But, miraculously, there is also award availability. It’s possible to book seats in both Economy and Business class using Etihad Guest miles.
Emirates resumes Sydney, Melbourne flights
Emirates will also resume limited passenger flights to Australia next week, after suspending flights since the end of March. The airline will fly 3 times per week each from Sydney and Melbourne to Dubai, using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
The special schedule will run from 21 May until 30 June 2020. During this period, Emirates will also operate a small number of flights from Dubai to London, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago and Toronto. But these flights are intended mainly for outbound travel from the United Arab Emirates or for those needing to return to Dubai for essential travel. Emirates is not promoting these flights as available to transit passengers.
Qatar resumes flights to Brisbane
Numerous other international airlines continue to operate regular flights to/from Australia. This includes Qatar Airways, which is still serving Sydney, Melbourne and Perth with regular commercial flights.
After operating daily flights from Brisbane to Doha for the first time during April 2020, Qatar Airways is returning to Brisbane from 20 May until 30 June 2020. Qatar Airways will operate 3x weekly Brisbane-Doha flights using Airbus A350-1000 aircraft during this period. Passengers can connect through Doha to/from many other international destinations, although foreign nationals are currently banned from entering Qatar.
Tickets are available on the Qatar Airways website. The flights are not cheap with one-way tickets from London to Brisbane, for example, selling for $1,764 in Economy or $10,084 in Business class.
But Qatar Airways is starting to release award availability again, after pulling most of its award inventory back in March. There are both Economy and Business reward seats available to/from Australia at the moment, and it’s possible to book a seat using Qantas Frequent Flyer points.
If you’re an American Airlines AAdvantage member, it could also be possible to buy AAdvantage miles and redeem for a Qatar Airways Business class seat. It costs 85,000 AAdvantage miles + taxes to fly in Qatar Airways Business class between Australia and Europe; it would cost around USD1,843 (~$2,850) to buy those miles during the current American Airlines “buy miles” promotion.
Virgin Australia continuing Los Angeles-Brisbane flights
Meanwhile, the federal government has extended its subsidised return flights from Brisbane to Los Angeles, operated by Virgin Australia, until 7 June 2020. Qantas is also operating extra weekly international repatriation flights on the London-Melbourne and Los Angeles-Melbourne routes until early June.
Australia re-opens airports to transit passengers
Yesterday, the Australian Border Force announced that foreign nationals no longer have to apply for an exemption to transit through Australia between international flights. This applies to passengers booked on a connecting flight from the same airport that are not leaving the airport.
This new rule means, for example, that a UK citizen in New Zealand could now fly from Auckland to Melbourne, then immediately continue their journey to London with Qatar Airways or Etihad Airways.
The exemption for New Zealand, Timor Leste and Pacific Island citizens transiting through Australia while returning to their home country still applies. These citizens do not need to apply for a transit exemption if departing Australia within 72 hours after arrival. If leaving the airport, passengers are still subject to quarantine requirements.
Australian citizens are still banned from leaving the country, although there are some exceptions and it is possible to apply for an exemption. And the Australian government is still banning anyone except Australian citizens, permanent residents, their immediate family members and air crews from entering the country, with those returning home subject to 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine.