Air­lines rush on a wing and a prayer

It’s Vir­gin on the ridicu­lous as Ter­ri­to­ri­ans are of­fered flights to a state that won’t let us in

Sunday Territorian - - OPINION - DENISE CAHILL Denise Cahill is the Head of News at the NT News

THE lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the ter­ri­tory and state gov­ern­ments and air­lines has left Ter­ri­to­ri­ans stranded — and at risk.

It’s been a missed op­por­tu­nity for both par­ties, and dam­aged rep­u­ta­tions.

The much-an­tic­i­pated an­nounce­ment that bor­ders would open on July 17 had peo­ple from within and out­side the Ter­ri­tory dream­ing of where they could es­cape to for a bit of COVID-19 re­lief.

There was even more ex­cite­ment when Jet­star re­leased a bar­gain flight sale to Queens­land.

But then many of those flights were sud­denly can­celled, leav­ing wannabe hol­i­day­mak­ers with an air­line credit and the prospect of hav­ing to fork out for an­other air­fare.

Vir­gin then re­leased a flight sale be­tween Dar­win to Perth, a state that won’t even let us in.

Can­celled flights and bro­ken plans have left a sour taste in many trav­ellers’ mouths.

Some level of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween air­lines and gov­ern­ments when plan­ning bor­der open­ings could have meant more peo­ple in the Ter­ri­tory dur­ing the Dry — and it could have pre­served the rep­u­ta­tions of air­lines that are now sud­denly can­celling or chang­ing flights.

Con­nect­ing flights have also meant peo­ple in hot spots, who are re­quired to un­dergo manda­tory quar­an­tine when they ar­rive in the NT, are mix­ing with pas­sen­gers in safe com­mu­ni­ties who are able to dis­em­bark and go about their own busi­ness freely.

Just last week, three pas­sen­gers on an Airnorth flight from Cairns to Nhu­lun­buy had orig­i­nally come from a hot spot, and were then flown from the for­mer biose­cu­rity zone to Dar­win for quar­an­tine.

It was not com­pul­sory for pas­sen­gers on that flight to wear face masks.

Dar­win res­i­dent Karen Sch­nei­der re­cently told the NT News her friends flew to Dar­win from Syd­ney via Alice Springs, where more pas­sen­gers boarded the flight.

She said her friends were quar­an­tin­ing in Howard Springs, but had trav­elled with pas­sen­gers from Alice Springs to Dar­win, who were not orig­i­nally from hot spots and there­fore did not have to quar­an­tine.

“There was no sep­a­ra­tion, no empty seats left for spac­ing, and some Syd­ney pas­sen­gers didn’t even bother wear­ing masks,” Ms Sch­nei­der said.

“All those Alice Springs pas­sen­gers went straight back into the com­mu­nity with­out need­ing to quar­an­tine.

“What would have hap­pened if one of those hot spot ar­rivals had been in­fected?”

From Sun­day, Qan­tas flights be­tween Alice Springs and Dar­win will be con­nect­ing from Ade­laide rather than

Syd­ney. A Qan­tas spokes­woman said the air­line was pro­vid­ing “masks and sanitising wipes to all cus­tomers as a fur­ther pro­tec­tive mea­sure”.

The re­open­ing of bor­ders and air­lines ramp­ing up gave peo­ple hope of re­unit­ing with fam­i­lies and at­tend­ing mile­stone birth­days and wed­dings. But in­stead, the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween air­lines and gov­ern­ments has left peo­ple out of pocket, in­con­ve­nienced and po­ten­tially ex­posed to coro­n­avirus.

The lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion has left peo­ple po­ten­tially ex­posed to coro­n­avirus

Pic­ture: CHE CHORLEY

Jet­star flight JQ 687, di­rect from Mel­bourne to Dar­win, ar­rives at Dar­win Air­port, and its pas­sen­gers are di­rected to wait­ing buses to be trans­ferred di­rectly to Howard Springs for manda­tory su­per­vised quar­an­tine of 14 days.

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