The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
Government steps up to fly stranded Aussies home
THE federal government has stepped in to help stranded Australians get home amid fears other airlines will follow Emirates’ shock decision and stop international flights.
The government will foot the bill for a further 20 international flights, acting Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham said.
The flights will operate outside the existing cap on passenger numbers and fly into places such as Tasmania, Canberra and the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory.
The announcement, which will apply to flights from the end of January to the end of March, will focus on vulnerable Australians in locations where it is difficult to get home, including the UK and India. It adds to the 90 flights that the government has already facilitated.
But fears remain in the aviation industry that Emirates’ announcement could lead to a domino effect of other airlines stopping their flights.
UNSW aviation expert Tony Webber said until now he believed Emirates would have been the last airline to pull out of flights to Australia “considering their size and government backing”.
“So them pulling out means that other airlines may follow, as those airlines would likely be under even more financial pressure,” he said.
“It probably wasn’t commercially viable before the cap reduction but now it would seem less viable.
“This also may result in more international flights home being done by Qantas.”
Emirates announced on Friday that it would cease flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The move came after NSW, Queensland and Western Australia halved their number of overseas arrivals until at least February 15.