Qantas is working alongside the federal government to bring up to 1,315 Aussies home from overseas.
The national carrier plans to operate eight return services, including four from New Delhi, three from London and one from Johannesburg, with the airline expected to announce more destinations in due course.
There are currently more than 29,000 Australians overseas who have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs to come home, according to the government’s latest figures.
The London and New Delhi flights will operate directly to Darwin, while the Johannesburg flight’s arrival port is still being worked out.
The flights will be operated by Qantas’ 787-9 Dreamliners and passengers will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Australia.
The airline said the cabin crew onboard the flights will have additional protections including personal protective equipment, scaled back in-flight service and ‘crew only’ areas at the front and back of the aircraft. All pilots and cabin crew working on these flights will have volunteered for them.
“Since the pandemic started, we’ve operated over 100 international flights to bring Australians home with the government’s support,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
“I’d like to thank not only the crew who are volunteering to operate on these services but the many people behind the scenes who make sure these flights happen, particularly to cities where we don’t typically operate to.”
These are the first international passenger flights Qantas has operated since June, with commercial flights unviable due to ongoing travel restrictions.
The eight repatriation flights are excluded from the international arrivals cap and are in partnership with the government rather than scheduled commercial services.
The one-way economy fares cost $2,150 from London, $1,750 from Johannesburg and $1,500 from New Delhi.
The federal government said in a statement it is working alongside Qantas to ensure the most vulnerable Australians are given priority access to the flights.
This comes as the latest repatriation deal was put on hold after Friday’s national cabinet meeting was cancelled as the Prime Ministers plane suffered technical difficulties preventing him from returning to Sydney on time.
At a press conference in Cairns on Thursday, the Scott Morrison said the government is in the final stages of bringing stranded Aussies home through the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin.
The government estimates the facility will enable more than 5,000 Australians to return over the next six months.