Flight path to freedom

Headshot of Geoffrey Thomas
Geoffrey ThomasThe West Australian
Email Geoffrey Thomas
International travel could be a reality for Australian travellers from December. But not without caveats.
Camera IconInternational travel could be a reality for Australian travellers from December. But not without caveats. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

The lift-off of international travel in December could be a bit bumpy, before the bluer skies of 2022 are reached.

There are many things on the check-list before smooth, hassle-free travel can be assured. Passengers ought to be ready for some delays and even hassles.

The headline story is Qantas scrapping, for the time being, its Perth to London non-stop.

The immediate reaction is “we can’t fly to London” — but we can with Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates.

Qantas will re-route its Melbourne-London flight through Perth as soon as it can, most likely by April 1, 2022.

But there are other hurdles.

When we are free to travel internationally, possibly in December, the government needs to have in place a digital COVID vaccination certificate process as well as your COVID test, which you will need to have 72 hours before your international flight.

If these are not in place, travellers will experience long delays with paper processing at airports. Current experience is about one hour extra for departure and one hour extra on arrival, which takes us back to travel in the 70s and 80s.

Also, you need to check how many COVID tests you will require. For instance, for Singapore, it’s one before you leave, one on arrival, another day two and another day six, if you stay that long. Each costs about $150.

The help of a good travel agent is highly recommended, as each country has different requirements for COVID.

For instance, if you’re off to the USA, you currently need either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as no non-US vaccine is approved as yet. Astra Zeneca is British.

Another important issue is quarantine. For the UK, Australia is on the green list and thus no quarantine is required, but if you’re flying through another country, either for a stay or transit stop, that country must also be on the green list to ensure you don’t have to quarantine.

Dubai, Qatar (from October 4) and Singapore — the homes of Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines respectively — are all on the green list, as is Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways base.

Flexibility is paramount and, again, a good travel agent can easily give the best options for your circumstances.

Over the past 20 months most airlines have steadily changed their terms and conditions to ease restrictions and give the maximum of flexibility.

Insurance is another key issue to tick off and some airlines now offer insurance options. Emirates was the first airline to provide multi-risk travel insurance with every flight, including cover for COVID-19.

Delightfully, there are no forms to complete, with your ticket purchase activating the policy.

Yet another process is that many countries, like Singapore, require you to download a tracing App — called Tracing Together in Singapore — like our SafeWA App. So, travellers without mobiles have a challenge.

And you must quarantine — typically a day — until your PCR tests comes back negative.

Keith Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, told Airline Ratings earlier this month that “we know that right now, processes are complicated and we have to simplify them”.

Within Australia, domestic border openings are still up in the air, although travel to Tasmania, Northern Territory and South Australia is all go.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails