Every week we check-in with Travel Josh Engstrom, Travel Expert from Liberty Travel to get an update on flights between the United States and Australia, as well as hearing real-world information about what traveling looks like. This week we talk Qatar, United, traveling through Japan, and thoughts on holiday travel!

Information is changing regularly so be sure to check back each week for updates.

Please note that all flights coming into Australia, have reciprocal flights leaving, so while the schedules will be different of course if you see an airline coming in – they will also be leaving to go back to point of origin.

As many countries enter phase one and two of lifting lockdowns and re-opening borders, it’s sometimes tough to work out whether you can fly into or transit different countries. Let me give you a great trusted link to get any info on entering countries:

https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/international-travel-document-news/1580226297.htm

This is IATA – the world body for all things air travel – a trusted source and they are updating regularly.

Weekly Travel Advice Video

Travel Josh Engstrom has very kindly offered to do weekly interviews with me (America Josh) where I can ask him general (and specific) questions about travel and answer some of the questions you might have.

This week we talk the latest flight schedules, holiday travel, Japan, and Qatar! You can submit your questions for next week on the link below.

Submit your question here

Where can you travel right now?

I get this question a lot and here are some options tailored to the US resident done by my work Liberty Travel – handy quick link to get started:

https://www.libertytravel.com/travel-articles/where-americans-can-travel-now

Should I book my Holiday/Christmas flights now?

Yes, we are still in August! This year above all others I encourage anybody wanting to go home for the month of December to please start looking now. Decreased options, limited availability on those options, and general overall worldwide disruptions make it a perfect storm if you don’t act soon.

Australian Government looks to help more Aussies come home

As the Australian government continues to cop more and more flack by those Aussies still OS and wanting to come home, there is at least looking like there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. While nothing is confirmed yet – it appears that the Govt. might be starting to listen.

Some initiatives being acted on now: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-02/government-announces-financial-support-for-australians-overseas/12622352

What does this mean for current caps?

I believe that they will be reviewed and hopefully, the Australian Government sees sense and broadens the caps so that in turn increases flights, which hopefully, in turn, means that people won’t have to shell out $6k to secure a flight home. That’s my hope, watch this space.

Current limitations in flights to Australia

Getting home in the next month is increasingly difficult/impossible- especially trying to book your flights only a couple of weeks out of travel. My advice is to start planning at least 2 months before you fly – I know that that’s hard considering the everyday tragedy unraveling before us and constant changes to laws and travel regulations. But, with the increased flexibility airlines are offering, it’s better to have a seat you may have to change, rather than no seat at all.

  • Sydney – 350 arrivals per day
  • Perth – 525 arrivals per week
  • Brisbane – 500 arrivals per week
  • Adelaide – 500 arrivals per week
  • Canberra & Darwin – flights discussed on a case-by-case basis
  • Hobart – no international flights
  • Melbourne – no international flight arrivals* – This is incredibly difficult news!!!

Availability of flights over the next two weeks (18th Sep – 2nd Oct)

Due to the current limits availability is now super tight. Looking at availability for the SFO – SYD & LAX – SYD routes operated by United and Delta, very few seats remain to purchase – It is almost impossible to get any economy seats home at the moment.

Flights will continue to be drastically reduced due to caps on Arrivals

Australia has capped its inbound passenger numbers, this is going to impact getting into Australia and make a difficult process even more stressful and uncertain. The importance of booking with a travel agent showcased in these turbulent times.

Routes most likely to be affected: LAX – SYD; SFO – SYD – United have already come out and capped their westbound capacity to 50 pax per flight!

Hotel Quarantine

The Australian Government is charging travelers now for their quarantine.

*NB The process for checking your purchase date for tickets is done at the hotel, please contact me for assistance on how to best plan for this.

Updates from individual airlines

United (UA)

Big news coming out this week that United has declared they are removing change fees from their domestic flights. The other big two to follow (AA/DL) as well as Jetblue. Let’s hope this continues through the chain to long-haul flights as well.

Still the most reliable route to Australia for New York-based expats – Still only from SFO – SYD – Availability is very tight for the coming weeks departure. If you urgently need to get home, this is your safest bet. If you can’t find seats let me know as I can waitlist seats as above.

United is expanding to also offer LAX – SYD flights, flights will operate Tuesdays. They are looking at adding a few more daily flights in October to include Tuesdays and Sundays. Watch this space. Looking at this schedule over the next month availability is already very tight with most economy seats already sold out (only biz available). There is scope by the airline to increase this service to daily – but caps will need to be upped before this happens.

Daily service from San Francisco to Sydney through August – still have not had any problems with these flights. United have just posted their upcoming routes for September and great news, Sydney flights are still going to be running daily from SFO.

Qatar (QR)

News coming out this week that Qatar has stopped taking bookings to Australia:

Faced with a large backlog of Aussies trying to get home, Qatar Airways has quietly stopped accepting new bookings to Australia. The country is only accepting 4,000 international arrivals a week. That includes its own citizens. Because of this, airlines reckon it will take months to clear the backlog of Australians trying to get home. Air New Zealand has declined to accept new bookings to Australia for some time. Now Qatar Airways is going down the same path.

Delta (DL)

DELTA Air Lines has resumed its Australian operations, WED/FRI & SUN. Currently – they are in the process of increasing their flights for October and beyond to include Mondays and Thursdays. This is a great development. There are flights from NYC to connect in LAX. The addition is part of a staged global resumption of operations adding 1,000 flights system-wide subject to demand and evolving COVID-19 restrictions.

You will need to book at least a month out to get any economy seats – availability is extremely tight. Getting good feedback on this service, and the ones I’ve booked all got home safe and sound – let me know if you want help to book Delta flights.

Singapore Airlines (SQ)

There doesn’t appear to be any connections from the US that don’t include overnight stop-overs in Singapore, making this not a very attractive option for people.

Virgin Australia (VA)

Now that it looks clearer that this airline will remain in the longer term, a media release from the two new stakeholders state that Virgin Australia will honor the more the $100 million worth of tickets canceled due to COVID and the company going into bankruptcy, this is great news for Aussies in the US who had their original VA flights canceled. Unsure whether they will be able to get refunds still, but at least when they do start flying again, you will be able to use your existing credit.

QANTAS (QF)

QF were expected to start their LAX-SYD route in August, this has now been canceled, checking their schedule, I can’t see any flights until at least November – this is a very sad departure, with new updates to come as they are released.

Qantas has updated their refund policy – so that it is easier to understand and hopefully easier for those whose flights were canceled to get a refund.

Qantas (and Virgin Australia) this week, as expected, suspended all remaining international flights that were in operation in cooperation with the Australian Government (https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/qantas-and-virgin-australia-suspend-remaining-international-flights-20200608-p550jl.html):

Qantas and Virgin Australia have re-grounded their remaining international passenger operations after government funding for the handful of overseas routes they were flying came to an end.

Emirates (EK), Etihad (EY)

Please note that all passengers transiting UAE will need to provide negative COVID tests – please check out info on the specific airline for more info.

With no official statement – these airlines anecdotally are bumping economy class passengers from their flights – this is a worrying development, as this really does put people in jeopardy if they can’t afford a biz class ticket. Please contact me before you book any of these airlines and we can look at these options together.

With Emirates, you can now fly direct into PER/SYD/BNE via Dubai.

NYC – BNE – Thursdays only

NYC – PER – Wednesday’s only; DXB – MEL – Tuesday’s, Thursday’s & Friday’s; DXB – SYD – Monday’s, Wednesday’s & Saturday’s

ETIHAD – daily connections from NYC – SYD

QATAR –  NYC – BNE – MON/WED/FRI; NYC – PER TUE/THU/SAT/SUN

Questions & Bookings

Do you have any questions? Do you need travel advice? Contact Josh by his email, [email protected]

Josh Engstrom Liberty Travel

This week’s video transcript

America Josh: Hi everyone. I’m America Josh, and thanks for tuning in again this week for our chats with Travel Josh Engstrom  from Liberty Travel. G’day, Josh, how are you?

Travel Josh Engstrom: G’day g’day, I’m good. I’m good. Hello, everyone.

America Josh: Let’s jump right in. We’re going to keep these snappy every week. We’re going to make sure we just get the most prudent information as always.

If people want to check out your latest article, you can go to America. josh.com forward slash travel. Josh, where. other travel, Josh, it’s just knowing with a bit of an update on everything that we talk about today and a few extra details. and if you want to, you can go to that address to submit questions.

So we have had a bunch of questions, but broadly, how are things looking at the travel and flight industry at the moment, Josh?

Travel Josh Engstrom: Yeah, in particular. when we talk about it, flights back to Australia, we did cover it last week that it’s very tight and, trying to get a flight home in the next month is, is almost impossible at the moment.

So I had a, a look before I got on the call with you, just to make sure and. I had a look through out September trying to find flights from New York and also from LA, to Sydney. And there’s just no availability. There’s a few business class seats scattered throughout the month, but that’s pretty much it, which is, you know, obviously going to make people feel quite anxious.

if they can’t go home and they really need to go home, there are alternatives. So we can discuss those as well.

America Josh: Okay, so for sure. So basically if you are planning sort of the general advice we’ve got at the moment before we go into some of the details is if you are planning to go back, you need to get onto that as early as possible.

There’s a really, you can’t delay. Yeah.

Travel Josh Engstrom: At the moment, I’d say at least a minimum six weeks in advance. And then, I’d probably start pushing that as, as far, and getting that booked in as close as soon as.

America Josh: Okay, awesome. we did have a lot of questions around timetables and flight schedules and frequencies.

And so do you want to jump in and give us a few details about what those, you know, you said it’s really tight, but how is that looking for an extended period?

Travel Josh Engstrom: Yeah, sure. I did a few schedules and looked up some schedules today. from what I can the, the sched, the current schedules is that we’ve got at the moment with United and Delta, will be staying quite similar for the foreseeable future.

There is only a couple of days for example, that, you can connect on a flight with United from San Francisco.

America Josh: So that’s when the crossover from flying New York San Francisco, is that what you mean? Oh, sorry.

Travel Josh Engstrom: Yeah. Yeah. So there’s only a few, a few days where the flight connect without having to do an overnight.

So be on the lookout for those, you don’t want to accidentally book a flight. I know when you’re going, when people are going through the United side or whatnot, it’s easy to not see when it says I’m an overnight stay or something like that, such as a bit really beyond the lookout when you’re booking those flights, otherwise, you know, come to an agent or an I can help you.

And then, from what I can see, United, going every day of the week from San Francisco. so that, that service has been going since this all of this COVID. So that’s been fantastic. and then, I can also see from LA, Delta, continuing to fly Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

So that’s just three days a week from LA. and then, I suppose I could just jump on in there. We did get a question of someone asking about United flights from LA. and I can definitely answer that question as well. so United are going to start flying from LA, from what I can see, they’re starting off, just on, Thursdays.

So just one day a week. and then I believe as the schedule goes through October, November, they are looking to increase that. And they’re, they’re, they’re looking to start to build that. so that’s a really good sign for the Australians. the only way we’re going to be able to get, the current nightmare of trying to get home, from yet from San Francisco, LA is to increase the amount of planes going in the sky.

and that means the Australian government obviously has to increase the quota. So there’s a few things that need to happen before they start going back to, regularity. Yeah.

America Josh: Okay. can you tell me, so another question we had around sort of these flight schedules, a few people have obviously started looking into alternatives from the sort of major airlines that, most people are familiar with.

We did have one question from Bondi around how our New York does Sydney flights via Japan through Al Nippon airlines. Is there any feedbacks on being bumped or any feedback in general?

Travel Josh Engstrom: Yeah. I had a look at this, in the scheduling. And from  what I could see, I could only see actually JAL flying. I couldn’t see a connection without doing an overnight, through Japan.

but that is an alternative that you can look at. So for JAL, for example, going from New York, you’d leave on a Wednesday and only is flying on a Wednesday. to connect then onto a Thursday flight from Tokyo to Sydney. that’s the only one I could find. With Al Nippon when I looked into it, you’re actually changing airports in Tokyo.

So you’re flying into Narita, but then you’re flying out of Haneda. And I would definitely suggest probably not doing that as a, as an alternative, but, I had, I did have a look at the JAL one and the JAL one does connect. If you leave on Wednesday from New York, you then connect on, you can connect on a Thursday flight, from the same airport at Narita.

America Josh: Okay. I’m sorry. Can you just repeat, is it JAL? Just so I can put up

Travel Josh Engstrom: Japan airlines, Japan airlines.

America Josh: Okay. Yeah. Awesome. Yeah, no problem. I’ll put that, you know, I’m not always familiar with all of the airlines flying.

I love it  another one we had was around Qatar. So, are Qatar flying into Sydney, Adelaide and Perth?

Travel Josh Engstrom: Well, a little bit of breaking news here, Josh, actually, Qatar just announced that they, are quietly not taking any more future, bookings, to Australia. So we can confirm that here right now. So, like you said, that’s, that’s worrying, especially for people that need to get home in the next three to four weeks, that’s gonna be really difficult for them now.

That is sad news, and I can definitely understand it from an airline perspective, Australia, the Australian market and airlines, trying to get into Australia at the moment. It’s very tricky, for them because of the way the government has. And I suppose with limited planes, limited pilots, limited staff, they have to and prioritize those markets, where they’re going to be able to be okay.

And a little bit more consistent. So, there are alternatives that we can have a look at Cathay Pacific, by Hong Kong. that could be an option, just be careful of Hong Kong at the moment and make sure you’re keeping an eye on, you know, they’ve got a bit of political unrest there at the moment.

So just keep an eye on that. Be wary of that, be cautious. that’s safe to be cautious, I think. and also have a look at Singapore airlines as an option because, You know, they’re flying into Australia as well.

America Josh: Okay. in general, just as a sweeping question, is there anything else industry-wide that we should keep an eye out on for the upcoming few weeks?

Travel Josh Engstrom: Do you have a little bit of good news? so American airlines has announced that they intend, to stop flying again from LA to Sydney. I did have a look before I got on, just to see if I could find any availability and actually hold some seats and get some pricing on whatnot. And as yet it doesn’t look like they have released the scheduling or, have availability to book.

But, it doesn’t take too long for an airline to set that up. So if they’ve announced it, it’s definitely a watch your space, a watch this space kind of thing, where, we definitely hope that American airlines resumed their service from LA to Sydney. That would be really good for our wonderful.

America Josh: As we mentioned last week, the sort of to tidy everything up, I know a lot of people are starting to look a bit further into the holiday season. And last week you rated it at a code red. And that people should really stop booking right now. How things looking at the moment? Is that basically the same?

Travel Josh Engstrom: Yeah. Well, I suppose in conjunction with the lack of availability, I just had a look then, and I was still struggling to find any, economy seats into October. by the time you get into October, it’s only eight weeks away. So, I definitely start, code code red. Yep. Yeah. If you need to go home for Christmas, so you want to go home for Christmas.

Definitely get that booked.

America Josh: Fantastic. Thank you very much, Josh. We really appreciate you taking the time and we’ll see you next week.

Travel Josh Engstrom: See you next week guys, and send any questions through, DM me, DM, Josh, or just, read my blog and there’s a little handy, little click and put your question in. So, thanks a lot for your support.

I’ve had some great feedback. So, look forward to doing this again next week.

America Josh: Fantastic. Thanks everyone. Thanks Josh.

Travel Josh Engstrom: Thanks guys.