Private jets
Some Australians are paying many thousands of dollars to get around hotel quarantine caps and return to Australia by private jet. Photo: Chris Leipelt on Unsplash.

A small number of desperate (and wealthy) Australians are using a secret loophole to return to the country without being subject to Australia’s strict inbound arrival caps.

While this loophole is not being openly advertised, an increasing number of travel agents are now discretely offering guaranteed seats back to Australia using private jets.

Tickets are not cheap, but this method is successful because passengers on charter flights are exempt from the arrival caps designed to reduce pressure on Australia’s hotel quarantine system. Passengers still have to undergo 14 days of self-funded hotel quarantine after arriving in Australia.

Here’s how it works…

Firstly, passengers travel on commercial flights to Auckland in New Zealand. Unlike flights to Australia, there are plenty of seats available at the moment on commercial flights to New Zealand at reasonable prices. It may cost less than $1,000 for a regular Economy Class seat from Asia, Europe or North America to New Zealand.

It is not currently possible to enter New Zealand without a Managed Isolation & Quarantine (MIQ) booking, which is why so many near-empty flights are operating into New Zealand at the moment. Commercial airlines are also not currently accepting international transit passengers on their flights from New Zealand to Australia. But Australians can transit via New Zealand from a commercial flight to a private charter flight.

Not all Australian states and territories accept passengers arriving on private charter flights above the usual caps that apply to commercial flights. But according to the Courier Mail, the international arrival cap for Queensland only applies to aircraft with more than 80 seats. Australian Frequent Flyer understands that New South Wales has also granted a few exemptions for above-cap charter flight arrivals, but these are not always approved. This is why so many private jets have been flying from Auckland to Brisbane lately.

These packages typically start from around $13,000 per person. This price includes Economy Class flights from destinations around the world to Auckland, a seat on a private jet service from Auckland to Brisbane and the travel agent’s commission. As part of the package, the travel agency and charter operator arrange any necessary approvals.

The private jet loophole is perfectly legal. It’s not a scam. But whether it’s ethical is open to debate.

Some Australians stuck overseas believe the private jet loophole is unfair because it’s only available to people wealthy enough to afford $13,000+ (in addition to the cost of hotel quarantine) to get home.

It’s certainly an unorthodox way to return to Australia. But for some desperate Aussies stranded overseas, it’s the only way they will be able to get home before December. Of the few commercial airline seats currently on sale to Australia over the coming months, almost all are on so-called “ghost flights” that won’t operate.

The only other way to return to Australia at the moment, short of swimming or hiring a boat, is to snag a sought-after seat on a DFAT repatriation flight. These seats are routinely selling out within minutes of being released each month, leaving tens of thousands of Australians stuck overseas with no other way to get home.

The CEO of one of the private jet operators, Airly, recently told stuff.co.nz that while their phones are running off the hook, “it’s complete insanity as far as the rules and all the red tape the governments are putting up to prevent people from coming home.”

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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.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

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Harold

I suppose if this means more seats overall, it’s not hurting the people trying to get back.