Quarantines and other restrictions imposed on travel between certain states in Australia have forced airlines to cut back many of their domestic services. While this has stifled the recovery of the country’s most important domestic traffic flows, it has also boosted the importance of routes that do not cross state borders.
Capacity has returned to match or exceed pre-COVID levels on some of these routes within states (intrastate). With most out-of-state – and international – destinations out of reach, Australians have been looking closer to home for leisure travel options.
These markets have provided a welcome trickle of revenue for Australia’s airlines. But for a meaningful domestic recovery, they need the high-volume interstate routes to return.
Qantas and the other major airlines have been lobbying hard for state border restrictions to be eased where it makes sense, and for a more targeted and standardised, predictable method for isolating any future outbreaks. Other sectors of the travel industry are also aligned in this effort, putting immense pressure on state governments.
As states get infection levels under control, this pressure seems to be paying off. In the week to 24-Sep-2020 some important state borders have been opened, and airlines have responded by resuming more flights in these markets. Some borders – most notably those involving Victoria, which is now getting an outbreak under control – will remain closed in the immediate future. But elsewhere there appears to be growing momentum to ease interstate restrictions.