Travel Josh is so dedicated to the ex-pat community that even though he’s not with Liberty Travel anymore, he is sharing his travel and quarantine experience with me and Elias so that we can offer the best possible advice and guidance for everyone. We are very grateful for that (and a little jealous of the Korean take-out he had last night).

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

Top Travel Tip for the Week

#1 Unaccompanied minors – leaving this from last week so it reaches more people – kids under 18 traveling alone. Do you have kids heading back home to Australia while you’re staying here in the USA? Kids under 18 traveling alone are exempt from the 14-day hotel quarantine. They must still quarantine, but they can be picked up at the airport by a family member, head directly home, and complete quarantine there.

#2 Prices are crazy, how can I save even a little bit? Flexibility!  Fares are quite high compared to “normal times,” and it can be frustrating to look at an economy ticket for USD $3000+.  Airlines are flying large long-haul aircraft at – in many cases – less than 20% capacity due to the caps and they need to at least cover their costs otherwise they’ll remove the service altogether.  Flexibility is your best friend.  If you have a range of dates, a couple of weeks to a month or so during which you can return to Australia that will certainly help a little bit with pricing.

For this in need of further assistance, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is administering a “Hardship Program” with more info available on Australia’s Smartraveller webpage, accessible via the Australian Embassy website.

Availability over the next period (17th March – 31st March)

Availability is slim all around, partly because of spring break, and partly because it’s the two weeks before Easter. Sporadic economy or premium economy availability – 1 or 2 seats on most days during this time for the flights leaving or connecting through Los Angeles.  Business-class availability is fairly good from LAX as well.  Leaving from or connecting through San Francisco it’s just business class left during this time.

Airline news/updates

Air New Zealand (NZ)

Twice a week leaving from Los Angeles with connections onward to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. Air New Zealand partners with United Airlines, so if you don’t mind a couple of connections you can go via LA from many major cities across the US all on the same ticket.

United (UA)

7 days a week from SFO, 3 days a week from LAX (TUE/THU/SUN)

American Airlines (AA):

4 days a week LAX – SYD (TUE/WED/FRI/SUN)

Air Canada (AC)

Not recommended to book ATM.

Delta (DL)

Flying 7 days a week (LAX-SYD)

Air New Zealand (NZ)

LAX-AKL-SYD/BNEMEL (TUE/SAT).

Virgin Australia (VA)

QANTAS (QF)

We have started to see some preliminary Qantas itineraries added to the schedule for late March out of LAX and SFO.  No tickets on sale yet as they’ll require government approval and we’ve heard through reports that QF will need proof of vaccination for all passengers.  We’re staying optimistic that these flights will be feasible.

Singapore Airlines (SQ) & Cathay Pacific (CX)

NYC-SIN-PER (TUE/WED/FRI/SUN) – departures from JFK or Newark

Emirates (EK), Etihad (EY) and Qatar (QR)

Some availability to PER if you’re departing the US east coast (JFK/BOS), business class tickets strongly recommended for this routing.

Fiji Airways (FJ)

Not recommended to book ATM.

Cap Updates

Care flights from the UK and India into Darwin have started now, this will take some of the pressure off the caps coming from the US into Australia – great news.

NSW is sitting at 3,000 passengers per week into Sydney.

Brisbane is at 1,000 passengers per week with an additional allowance for 300 vulnerable Australians per week.

South Australia – 600 passengers into Adelaide. Flights had been suspended for a brief time in mid-to-late November but appear to have resumed.

Perth – currently at 1,025 passengers per week. Hopefully, this will slowly tick upwards.

When can I fly into Melbourne again?

This is the Million Dollar Question. We are slowly starting to see arrivals. Air NZ shows flights starting in March!, this looks like the best potential connection from the USA.

Questions & Bookings

Mike – BeckmanM@libertytravel.com
Elias – MukhtarE@libertytravel.com

(we will create a single email that goes to both of us very soon)

Video Transcript

America Josh: Hi everyone. I’m America, Josh, and welcome to travel tips with Elias Mukhter from Liberty Travel. G’day Elias, how are you?

Travel Elias: Good. How are you, Josh?

America Josh: I’m very well. Thank you. Thank you for joining us. This is our first video, just the two of us, having a bit of a chat about travel updates. And thank you very much for taking the time.

I know lots of people have been hanging out for to hear the updates and hear what you’ve got to say. So we’ll jump right in. we were talking before about, like, you know, what questions you’re getting asked a lot. And the first one you mentioned to me was around keeping costs down. And a lot of people want to know how they can sort of save money on flights.

Cause obviously it’s a difficult time at the moment for lots of people. What tips and sort of, what are you telling people around, how to keep costs

Travel Elias: down? I think being flexible with your dates, we’ll definitely keep your costs down. I mean, they’re, they’re not. Great. So any dollar you can save is fantastic.

Now we’re looking at flights right now for December, January, February are pretty high up there. So if you are semi flexible, as far as, I can leave in January, give me the best date possible. And I can find you the best date. If you give me, a three month period where you can leave, I’m going to be in trouble.

There’s a lot of dates to look up. So if you’ve given me a month, I can find you the best option for that month. because say the 30th might be better than the fifth. And I know a lot of people are, they don’t know when they’re traveling when they have to leave or when work will. Before allowing them, or they have to leave the country.

So being flexible with your dates will certainly help as far as keeping costs down.

America Josh: Okay. Yeah. I think that’s something that we touched on a lot and sort of, it, it seems to come up in different aspects of all of this, but flexibility. And we know that a lot of people can’t guarantee exactly that flexibility, which does make it difficult, which leads me to the second thing, which is around changeable and flexible and refundable flights.

Is that something that’s still actually possible. I know early on in the sort of initially with Covina hitting a lot of airlines, sort of made things more accessible and more refundable and changeable and things. Is that still the case or is it getting more and more difficult to get those kinds of

Travel Elias: tickets?

It’s getting a bit more difficult. A lot of those flexibilities were allowed till December 31st. And we know right now it’s very tough to get out by December 31st. So they were allowing those free changes prior to that, going into January, February, and March, they’re going to, there’s going to be penalties to change, but.

That is a very important question. There’s two different things. One is changeable. The other is refundable. I get a lot of people asking me for refundable options. Now refundable options are very expensive. if you’re looking at a business class ticket that may cost say $5,000, a refundable business class ticket may cost you $8,000.

So they get pretty pricey. Now, if you ask. For a changeable ticket. That’s a whole different story. Now a changeable business class ticket may cost you $400 to change. So now you’re not spending $3,000 extra to make it refundable. So you can get your money back or buy another option. You could stay with the same airline and you’ll just pay a fee to change your dates.

So changeable is always. In my opinion, the better way to go pay the fee to change it. That way you can change to a different month or different day, unless you plan on making five, six, seven, eight changes, then you may want to look at a refundable option. But if you think Ari, I want to leave on the fifth, but it may end up being the 10th.

Just go with the changeable option. You’ll save yourself thousands.

America Josh: Okay, great. Tip that one because I think a lot of people, including myself as a, you know, I think of it as just a ticket, but I could get rid of, but yeah, it makes a huge difference if it’s changeable or refundables, that’s really good to know.

One thing you did mention in saying that, was around business class and is that something, you know, we’ve seen a lot of people be bumped from flights, in the last few months, especially to Australia because of the flight caps. Is that something we’re still seeing, with airlines bumping the economy.

Class tickets before other ones, are you still recommending premium or are you recommending premium?

Travel Elias: If anybody is traveling within the next two months, I would a hundred percent consider premium economy. It’s not business. a lot of families are being sent back home as well. So when you have a family of six or seven versus a couple or a single person traveling, they’re going to take priority over that single person.

So if you are in business class, you have way less chance of being bumped versus being in an economy ticket. It’s getting a little bit more open in February and March and April, but the same thing will continue on. Obviously when the past months, when people were looking to book for November and December and January now it’s going to be the same thing more and more people have to book.

So you want to book now for February and March versus trying to wait another month because the availability is going to go away. The prices are going to go up and more and more people will end up not having that option to fly home.

America Josh: No. Okay. Good to know. And I guess, yeah, it’s difficult for a lot, but if you can sort of scrounge up that extra money and it’s worth looking in for a flight to Australia, there are, I believe still government supports that you can look into.

so make sure you’ve made best use of the home affairs department. in Australia and, on that as well, just in general, if people wanted to, you know, if you decided now that you want to go back to Australia for the Christmas and the holiday season, is that something that’s actually achievable or is it sort of, December’s already completely

Travel Elias: gone.

Well, it’s certainly achievable, but it depends on how much money you have in your pocket, because you can search. You can do loads, you have the buddy, you can do anything you want, but to get home for Christmas at this point, economy tickets one way or the $3,000 each, around trip. May cost you around $6,000 and those are those prices or business class fares that you’re paying for economy.

And you know how long that flight is and you know how tight that can get. So in business class, it may cost you 6,001 way, so it can get very pricey. It’s doable. But if you traveled in say February or March, you can get a business class ticket for those kinds of rates. Six, the $7,000 versus buying it. And he kind of, to me, so it’s doable, but it really depends on how bad you want to get home.

America Josh: Okay. No, good to know. And I mean, yeah, if people can sort of postpone their festivities to February, March and pretend like it’s December, that might be the best strategy I’ll ask. Thank you very much. This is really helpful. And, I look forward to lots more chats with you.

Travel Elias: Of course, thank you so much for having us actually, and I do want to mention one thing, then we obviously appreciate everybody coming to us to book their tickets, but I know there’s going to be people that go online and I just want to kind of put a little tidbit out there, try to stay away from Fiji.

I know a lot of people are looking to get the least, least expensive option available. And right now, Fiji airways is their least expensive option. And. Everybody that says, Hey, you’re giving me this option for Delta. What about this Fiji option? And I would stay clear of that. They’ve canceled their flights over and over and over again.

And I’ve had a client who was stuck in Fiji for about three months, not a bad place to be.

But if you’ve got to get home and it’s your own cost at three to three months, it’s going to get quite expensive. So you want to stay away from those. There’s a reason. Those are the least expensive options. You’ll see a lot of Chinese carriers that are very low and the Fijian ways options. So try to stay away from them.

And secondly, You may see a lot of these search engines, Expedia, Google, and these guys offering you options with airlines that are not actually partners. They may fly you from one study to another, with one airline, and then change up the airlines to go with a different airline to get your home. Now.

Those airlines, if they’re not partners, that means that your bags may not go through or they will probably will get lost. And they don’t guarantee to each other that a flights delayed will protect you on another flight. So the search engine, the whole idea behind it is to get you to these expensive fare, but they don’t put it into account that these airlines don’t really.

Well

America Josh: communicate. Okay. No, that’s a really good tip. I had no idea. Cause you just assume and I’m sure lots of people do is that if your flight gets delayed, of course the other flats get pushed. But that, as you said, if they’re not partners, that’s not something that you’re going to be told. So it’s something that you can tell people.

And if people do want to get in touch with you, we’re going to make sure that your contact details are in the description below and in the blog posts that we put up today, along with this video. Alas, thank you mate. And I’ll see you next week.

Travel Elias: Thank you so much.