This week we chat with Travel Josh Engstrom from Liberty Travel about Australian flight caps, travel agents, the possibility of bumps, flight availability, and mandatory quarantine.

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

Viewer & Reader Questions

Each week we get submissions of questions from readers and viewers:

  • Is there a price difference between booking directly with an airline or using a travel agent?
    • Answer: No, we use published airfares, so they are available to everybody. We get paid from the airlines.
  • For people considering going home in February or March, when would be a good time to buy a ticket given that there seems to be new flight options becoming available now and over the coming weeks? Would it be wise to wait a few weeks to see what else becomes available?
    • Answer: If you stick to the reliable airlines – AA/UA/DL/NZ it’s a perfect time to book those now. There will not be too much change for the next few months, the borders are not going to open for non-nationals anytime soon, so demand once the 30,000 get home might dry up completely.
  • Is there any indication of when the mandatory quarantine will end?
    • Answer: None at all, while Aussie’s feel safe at home without major caseloads, there’s little incentive for them to open the borders or lift the hotel QR.

Join us for an update at Australians Abroad: What You Need To Know

Presented by the American Australian Association and America Josh, this webinar will answer questions for Australians living abroad including travel information and flight caps from Travel Josh.

If you have a question that you’d like to ask Josh, you can submit them when you register!

Australians Abroad What You Need To Know

Availability over the next period (18th Dec – 1st Jan)

Only Premium Economy and above is available. Contact me if you want help finding economy fares back to Oz in Jan and Feb.

Australian flight and travel caps

Here’s an update about the increases to the caps being rolled out:

  • Current increases have taken place in Sydney already, who’s cap has increased by 500 per week. We have then seen Delta increase it’s flights LAX – SYD to 5 days a week. Great news.
  • Brisbane has increased its cap by 500 per week, am starting to see Air NZ flying into Brisbane again (11 hr transit in AKL though so watch out), this is promising..
  • Perth caps have increased by 500 a week! Really really hoping for Cathay and Singapore Airlines to get more access to this route for all my wonderful WA clients! Watch this space for an update next week.

Why is it so hard to get to Perth?

Our Western state is proving to be one of the most difficult places on earth to get to at the moment. Current bottlenecks, a state govt. stubborn to let their people come back home and airlines with long histories with routes into Perth are staying away as well. Combined with difficulty landing in Sydney for eg. doing QR there, then trying to fly into Perth domestically is JUST as hard!

We hope that pressure to continue to increase caps, letting anyone of us who wants to come home to be able to without all of the extra stress.

Why is it so hard to get into Brisbane/Cairns?

Same same but different to Perth – traditionally Brisbane and to a lesser extent Cairns have been major hubs for international travel. Caps and restrictions into Brisbane, particularly for us in North America – Qantas and Virgin quitting it’s BNE – LAX routes, Air NZ resuming a valid connection from the US through AKL is great news.

When can I fly into Melbourne again?

This is the Million Dollar Question.

I hope that they are taking flights again in December, let’s hope the viral count stays as low as possible leading up to the Oct 24th meeting, let’s hope that they sort out their QR system (abolishing mandatory hotel QR would be a start). We can do better, let’s hope this space starts filling with positive news soon for people immediately trying to get home.

Three-month outlook and holiday travel

We’re almost in November!! Availability and Flights home at Xmas time is already incredibly tight. Decreased options, limited availability on those options, and general overall worldwide disruptions will make it very difficult to get home if you leave it too late.

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. Over the next three months I expect with the 30,000 or so Aussies now home, demand may dry up even further limiting how we can get home.

Let’s hope the vaccine and health and safety of people get better here in the US with some (hopefully) better leadership involved.

Availability over the next period (2nd Jan – 15th Jan)

After the 6th Jan there are some decent priced fares from NYC – SYD, with our most reliable options of United, Air NZ, Delta and American. With some Air NZ options meaning possible connections to BNE as well.

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

Latest from individual airlines

Air New Zealand (NZ)

Starting to connect from the US again in December! Great news for adding their route back as a possible option for us all. Just connecting two days a week for now, but let’s hope this increases.

Air Canada (AC)

Massive news last  week with Air Canada cancelling all of their flights into Brisbane and Sydney. Air Canada is not offering refunds, they are only offering credits.

This greatly impacts those intending to fly in the coming 6 weeks, with little to no alternative available for these people. Please contact me for any emergency flights back to Oz, keeping in mind only premium or business may be available.

American Airlines (AA)

American Airlines Flights LAX – SYD to commence in November!

This is just the best news to find yesterday. More flights means it will be a tad easier to get home now!

Starting the 10th Nov – flights will depart Tues/Wed/Fri/Sun – BIZ/PREME/ECON available – email me to inquire/book.

United (UA)

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 and some Thursdays in Sept. It’s almost too late to book any reasonably priced economy seats for September – but as we move into October, it looks like United is ramping up its LAX – SYD route, offering daily flights and decent priced economy flights after the 9th of October.

Delta (DL)

Flying 6 days a week (LAX-SYD) starting 1st November – MON/TUE/WED/FRI/SAT/SUN

Singapore Airlines (SQ)

Changi Airport is going to open its airport soon to non-Singapore Nationals, 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) and Qatar (QR)

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, engstromj@libertytravel.com

Josh Engstrom Liberty Travel

About the Author

Travel Josh

I now work on Madison Avenue, in the Air Experts team for Flight Centre. We consolidate, group rate and manage the heck out of any and every kind of flight you could possibly think of. We solve problems and send off happy and sad people. We humanize what has become a very transactional process.

To get in touch with Josh and ask a question, feel free to contact him via his email engstromj@libertytravel.com