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International airlines’ huge threat as arrivals halved

·3-min read
Plane docked at Sydney Airport, Scott Morrison giving a speech.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison's decision to halve international arrivals could see international flights into Australia paused altogether, the industry has warned. (Images: Getty).

The Government’s decision to halve the number of international arrivals could force airlines to suspend services altogether, representatives have warned.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced the number of overseas arrivals on commercial flights would be capped at 3,035 from 14 July, down from 6,070.

Around 30,000 Australians are currently trying to get home from overseas.

The small number of potential passengers means it will become increasingly difficult for airlines to justify running passenger flights to Australia, Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) Barry Abrams said.

"Despite all the effort they've put in, it gets to a point where the only rational response is to suspend operations to Australia, perhaps for a very long period of time," Abrams said.

“There'll be a reduction in the level of connectivity available to Australians overseas to get home."

The board represents 33 major international airlines, and operates around 90 per cent of all international flights into the country.

“Many will be asking whether or not it makes more sense to suspend their passenger flights or just run cargo flights. I wouldn’t see it as cutting Australia off [but] I would see reduced connectivity and availability of flights to and from Australia,” he said.

The BARA warning comes as Health Minister Greg Hunt warns airlines against increasing ticket prices.

Prices for London-Sydney flights in July rose as high as $38,000 on Saturday, following the halving of the caps.

“I hope there is nobody who seeks a commercial advantage from difficult circumstances and that’s a strong, clear message,” Hunt said.

He said that as commercial capacity is reduced, the Government will increase “facilitated arrivals” to its Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory.

“Some of those flights have been under-subscribed in recent weeks so there is that capacity to bring additional Australians home via Howard Springs."

Industry, doctors sound alarm over international arrivals cut

The business lobby has also raised concerns over the halving of international arrivals, with Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox describing it as a “disappointing” and “unwelcome” development.

“The numbers arriving now amount to a trickle and today’s cut is virtually turning off the tap of critically needed skilled workers,” Willox said.

“It is not the number of arrivals causing the outbreaks, it is the management around quarantine arrangements.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) also called for Australia’s quarantine system to be improved, warning that a leaky system will have long term impacts.

“Given our reliance on an overseas health workforce, the caps will exacerbate the shortages of doctors and nurses as well as other critical workers in Australia,” AMA President, Omar Khorshid said.

“They will need to be lifted as soon as possible to reduce the impact on vulnerable Australians who need medical care.

“It is paramount that we fix the holes in hotel quarantine, and we therefore welcome the commitment to review the system.”

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