The International Flights Available to Australia in January 2021

Emirates A380 Sydney Airport
Emirates is suspending flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. What other airlines still fly to Australia?

Update (22 January 2021): Emirates will reinstate flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from next week.

It’s now January 2021, and there are still tens of thousands of Australians stuck overseas. Unfortunately for those Aussies, returning to Australia has just become even harder with super-connector Emirates withdrawing flights to most Australian cities and the Australian government further reducing international passenger arrival caps.

Emirates will cease flights to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this week, citing “operational reasons”. The decision came after the Australian government implemented even stricter quarantine and testing regimes for international air crew, and temporarily reduced the maximum number of weekly overseas arrivals until 15 February 2021.

Australia’s weekly international passenger arrival caps are now set at:

  • 490 passengers in South Australia
  • 500 passengers in Queensland (a 50% reduction)
  • 512 passengers in Western Australia (a 50% reduction)
  • 1,120 passengers in Victoria
  • 1,505 passengers in NSW (a 50% reduction)

Meanwhile, the capacity of the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin – where most of the Qantas repatriation flights are arriving – has been increaed from 250 to 425 people per week.

International flights operating to Australia in January 2021

Other than ad-hoc repatriation flights on behalf of the federal government, Qantas is currently operating scheduled international passenger services on only one route. Qantas’ Sydney-Auckland flights are running on Mondays and Fridays using Airbus A330s.

Jetstar and Air New Zealand are also operating limited flights from Auckland to Australia, with passengers arriving from New Zealand on one of these quarantine-free flights able to skip hotel quarantine.

Passengers coming from all other overseas destinations must quarantine in government-run hotels for 14 days following their arrival in Australia. But the hardest part for most returning Australians is simply finding an available seat on a commercial flight.

Here is a complete list of the airlines still operating international flights to Australia as of January 2021, in alphabetical order by airline:

Airline Route Aircraft type Frequency
Air New Zealand Auckland-Brisbane Airbus A320neo 3x weekly
Air New Zealand Auckland-Melbourne Airbus A320neo 3x weekly
Air New Zealand Auckland-Sydney Airbus A320neo 4x weekly
Air Niugini Port Moresby-Brisbane Boeing 767-300 5x weekly
Air Niugini Port Moresby-Cairns Fokker 70 1x weekly
Aircalin Noumea-Sydney Airbus A330-900 1x weekly
American Airlines Los Angeles-Sydney Boeing 777-300ER 4x weekly
ANA Tokyo-Sydney Boeing 787-9 4x weekly
Asiana Seoul-Sydney Airbus A350-900 1x weekly
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-Brisbane Airbus A350-900 1x weekly
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-Melbourne Airbus A350-1000 4x weekly
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-Perth Airbus A350-1000 3x weekly
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-Sydney Airbus A350-1000 5x weekly
China Airlines Taipei-Brisbane Airbus A350-900 1x weekly
China Airlines Taipei-Sydney Airbus A350-900 1x weekly
China Eastern Hangzhou-Sydney Boeing 777-300 1x weekly
China Eastern Shanghai-Sydney Boeing 777-300 1x weekly
China Southern Guangzhou-Melbourne Airbus A380 1x weekly
China Southern Sydney-Guangzhou Airbus A380 1x weekly
Delta Los Angeles-Sydney Airbus A350-900 5x weekly
Emirates Dubai-Perth Boeing 777-300ER 2x weekly
Etihad Abu Dhabi-Melbourne Boeing 787-9 5x weekly
Etihad Abu Dhabi-Sydney Boeing 787-9 5x weekly
Fiji Airways Nadi-Brisbane Boeing 737-800 1x weekly
Fiji Airways Nadi-Melbourne Boeing 737-800 1x weekly
Fiji Airways Nadi-Sydney Airbus A330-200 2x weekly
Garuda Jakarta-Melbourne Airbus A330-300 1x weekly
Garuda Jakarta-Perth Boeing 737-800 1x weekly
Garuda Jakarta-Sydney Airbus A330-300 2x weekly
Japan Airlines Tokyo-Sydney Boeing 787-8 2x weekly
Jetstar Auckland-Sydney Airbus A320 2x weekly
Korean Air Seoul-Sydney Airbus A330-300 1x weekly
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur-Melbourne Airbus A330-300 1x weekly
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur-Sydney Airbus A330-300 1x weekly
Nauru Airlines Nauru-Brisbane Boeing 737-300 1x weekly
Qantas Auckland-Sydney Airbus A330-300 2x weekly
Qatar Airways Doha-Adelaide Airbus A350-900 3x weekly
Qatar Airways Doha-Brisbane-Auckland Boeing 777-300 3x weekly
Qatar Airways Doha-Melbourne Airbus A350-1000 Daily
Qatar Airways Doha-Perth Airbus A350-1000 4x weekly
Qatar Airways Doha-Sydney Boeing 777-300 Daily
Royal Brunei Bandar Seri Begawan-Melbourne Boeing 787-8 2x weekly
Scoot Singapore-Melbourne Boeing 787-9 Daily
Singapore Airlines Singapore-Adelaide Airbus A350-900 4x weekly
Singapore Airlines Singapore-Brisbane Airbus A350-900 5x weekly
Singapore Airlines Singapore-Melbourne Airbus A350-900 Daily
Singapore Airlines Singapore-Perth Airbus A350/Boeing 787 Daily
Singapore Airlines Singapore-Sydney Airbus A350-900 2x daily
Solomon Airlines Honiara-Brisbane Airbus A320 2x weekly
Sri Lankan Airlines Colombo-Melbourne Airbus A330-300 2x weekly
Sri Lankan Airlines Colombo-Sydney Airbus A330-300 2x weekly
Thai Airways Bangkok-Sydney Airbus A350-900 1x weekly
United Airlines Los Angeles-Sydney Boeing 787-9 5x weekly
United Airlines San Francisco-Sydney Boeing 787-9 Daily
Xiamen Air Xiamen-Sydney Boeing 787-9 2x weekly

Getting a seat on one of these flights is near-impossible

While there are a limited number of commercial international flights operating to Australia as of January 2021, many are only running once or twice per week. And all (except arrivals from New Zealand) are subject to the limited arrival caps, meaning the airlines can only sell around 30-50 seats per flight. This makes flying to Australia a loss-making endeavour for many airlines, even with cargo revenue at record highs.

Operating passenger flights to Australia is now so uneconomical, due to the government’s arrival caps, that some airlines are now just operating freight flights. This includes Qantas, which is still operating regular cargo-only flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai. Many of these freight flights appear on flight-tracking Apps to be regular passenger flights as they are conducted with planes configured for passenger service.

Qantas A330
Qantas is running cargo-only A330 flights to Asia

Clearly, the demand for seats to Australia is currently far higher than supply. Most international flights are therefore sold out weeks or even months in advance, and the few seats that are available are extremely expensive.

For passengers booking tickets back to Australia, there’s also a huge risk that their booked flight will get cancelled. Many airlines are still selling seats on future flights that are unlikely to operate. And even passengers with confirmed tickets on flights that do go ahead risk being bumped by the airline, if arrival caps are lowered again or the flight is oversold.

So, which flights have available seats?

The quarantine-free Qantas, Jetstar and Air New Zealand flights from Auckland to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have plenty of available seats. But to book one of these tickets, you must have been in New Zealand for at least the past 14 days and these flights are not available to passengers transiting from other international flights.

Other than that, the options are extremely limited. Australian Frequent Flyer did find some seats for sale on a few routes, for travel during the next two weeks:

  • Jakarta-Sydney with Garuda Indonesia
  • Jakarta-Melbourne with Garuda Indonesia (only full-price Business class)
  • Nadi-Sydney with Fiji Airways
  • Nadi-Brisbane with Fiji Airways
  • Nadi-Melbourne with Fiji Airways
  • Bandar Seri Begawan-Melbourne with Royal Brunei

Unfortunately, most of the available flights are from countries that don’t currently allow international transit passengers. This means they are only useful to Australians already in those countries.

There are plenty of seats available on outbound flights departing from Australia. But most inbound international flights to Australia have no seats available until at least next month – and in many cases until even March or April. Even full-price Business and First Class tickets are already sold out months in advance!

For Australians stuck in Europe, most of the next-available flights back to Australia would require transiting via the United States. But travellers coming from Europe may not currently enter or transit through the United States, rendering those flights useless. Realistically, the main commercial options are now via Doha, Abu Dhabi, Singapore or Tokyo.

If you’re in Singapore, Hong Kong or Manila, you may be able to travel to Brisbane via Port Moresby with Air Niugini – although the next available tickets are not until early March.

If you’re an Australian trying to return home, don’t forget to register with DFAT in case a seat becomes available on a chartered repatriation flight. That may be your best hope at this point, although registering with DFAT also does not guarantee you a seat.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

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Colin Bakon

So what airlines are flying out of Australia? I presume all. Looking at going to Spain in May to work.


Malaysia Airlines seems to have more than 1 p/w KUL to Syd
Last week MH141 flew on 16/1, 13/1 and 12/1

Devon Indig

Hey Matt, I shared your article to the Facebook group Australians Stuck Around The World and one travel agent responded that he thought 70% of the flights you cited were not carrying passengers. Is that true or is there any way to find out which flights may be cargo only? Thanks!

John Smith

Which flights are departing Australia with passengers? I’d like to leave in April to fly to the UK, having had my vaccination (hopefully).

John Smith

oh and I don’t want to return anytime soon as I will be working in the UK for a few years.

Ahmed Hussein

100% right, I had 3 cancelled bookings with Etihad. I investigated all Airlines to fly from Egypt and I found that most of available tickets are with Airlines do not accept international transit despite of crazy prices.
Still the solution is with Emirates, Etihad, Qater Airways but there are no any available tickets up to May 2021 which is not guaranteed at all.

Warren Hollins

Matt, Philippine Airlines has MNL to BNE, SYD and Melbourne flights operating this month (Jan 2021)
I am booked on a Jan 29 MNL-BNE flight with them. The original notice for these flights came in an email from DFAT, who said that PAL had notified them of these as upcoming flights. DFAT’s email also said that we had to book direct with PAL on their hotline and that there would only be 25 seats per flight….so I’m booked and paid. I have an uneasy feeling about it though and I guess this will persist till I’m actually on the flight.

Kirstin M Essery

Hi Matt
I am looking to book a flight from Sao Paulo Brazil to Sydney NSW….for December 2021 onwards. My son has been there now for many months and needs to return home to Australia.
Can you recommend the airline to use as this is all so confusing. i thought i would need to book asap.