Canberra Airport’s terminal has reopened today after a two-day closure as Qantas and Virgin flights resume with Federal Government backing.
A $165 million package will keep the two companies in the air for the next eight weeks, and Virgin will run three return services a week to Melbourne out of Canberra, while Qantas will fly to Sydney and Melbourne daily.
The unprecedented Canberra Airport closure on Wednesday and Thursday came as all flights were cancelled, and the airlines and the government scrambled to get planes back in the air during the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown.
The Commonwealth will underwrite the cost of some flights to capital cities and around a dozen regional centres over the next eight weeks.
Canberra Airport was already running a reduced service with fewer staff but the terminal closure was the first time it has had to close due to a lack of scheduled flights from all airlines.
The Commonwealth backing will allow the airlines to run minimal domestic schedules and keep freight corridors open, as well as reinstating some staff, including pilots, cabin crew and ground staff
Passengers wanting to rebook cancelled flights are being advised to go online and use their credit.
Virgin – which will operate 64 return services between Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth – says passengers seeking to travel between 17 and 29 April inclusive will be afforded extra flexibility, including the ability to rebook their ticket to any day or service within that period with any applicable fare differences waived.
Qantas says the government support will mean passenger flights will increase from 105 per week to 164 per week to all capital cities and 36 regional destinations.
”These flights will also provide critical freight capacity, which has fallen significantly as commercial air networks have shrunk. Much of the ‘bellyspace’ on these flights will be used for mail and other urgent shipments, including medical equipment,” Qantas says.
It says that social distancing has been put in place across all flights, on-board service will be scaled-back and cabin crew will wear personal protective equipment.
Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the situation would be reviewed after eight weeks.
“As Australians are asked to stay home unless absolutely necessary, we are ensuring secure and affordable access for passengers who need to travel, including our essential workers such as frontline medical personnel and Defence personnel, as well as supporting the movement of essential freight such as critical medicine and personal protective equipment,” Mr McCormack said.
“We know that a strong domestic aviation network is critical to Australia’s success and today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment, yet again, to maintaining connectivity during this pandemic.
“This investment will also help Australians returning from overseas, who find themselves in a different city after 14 days of mandatory quarantine, complete their journey home safely.”