Qantas has ramped up its calls for state governments to reopen borders based a more uniform medical risk assessment, promising new regional routes in return.
The national carrier has created a petition which calls for border closures to be risk-assessed against an agreed set of medical criteria and a shared definition of what constitutes a COVID-19 hotspot.
“There is huge pent up demand for domestic travel with Australians wanting to get away on holiday after being stuck at home,” the airline said on its website.
“We want to see Australians reunite with loved ones after months of being separated. And we want to see local businesses, and the one million people in the tourism industry, get back to work.”
In a release, Qantas said it will ask its roughly 10,000 suppliers to show their support, adding that many of them are small to medium businesses that rely heavily on flights restarting for their businesses to survive.
It is also encouraging its employees, more than 20,000 of whom have been stood down since April, to sign the petition.
“It’s expected other parts of the travel industry, including airports, travel agents and tour companies, will join the campaign,” Qantas said in the release.
Those signing the online petition are asked to provide their postcode and leave a comment on what impact the border closures have had on them; those responses will then be sent to their local state and federal MPs.
Qantas’ group executive for government, industry, international and sustainability, Andrew Parker has written to state and federal MPs who represent tourism-dependent electorates in states which did not agree to develop a road map out of hard border regimes following the National Cabinet meetings last Friday (that is, Queensland and Western Australia), making the case for a common, medically-based framework for reopening.
“We ask that all states and territories work with the commonwealth and other states and territories to develop a harmonised approach to border management with agreed timelines to provide greater certainty for businesses and all Australians,” Parker said in the letter.
“Arbitrary border restrictions are having a profound economic and social cost to communities, businesses, supply chains and jobs.
“I ask that you closely consider these implications for the welfare and economic wellbeing of your community and join the call for a rational, harmonised approach to border management guided by the best medical advice.”
Qantas has also announced it will launch new flights between Brisbane and Port Macquarie in response to Virgin Australia’s decision to cut the route.
The new route, which will depend upon borders reopening, will be traversed by the airline’s Q400 turboprop aircraft which will operate five times per week, adding more than 700 seats to the route each week.
The airline said in a statement it will also look to backfill capacity on other regional routes, with flights added in line with demand and an easing of travel restrictions.
QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the new flights would help maintain travel options for regional communities and drive much-needed tourism.
“As the national carrier, and the country’s largest regional airline, we have an important role to play in driving tourism and helping the industry get back on its feet,” he said.
“We also know how important air travel is for regional communities, for residents and business travellers. We’re pleased to be able to support customers with ongoing connectivity where there is demand.”
The airline has stressed that the new regional flights are contingent on an opening of state borders.
“We know there is significant pent-up demand for domestic travel with Australians wanting to explore their own backyard,” Gissing said.
“We expect the new flights to Port Macquarie will be popular with Queensland travellers looking to visit the beautiful coastal town so we hope an easing of travel restrictions will make this possible.
“These extra flights are also another step towards our recovery and getting more of our people back to work.”
The schedule and fares for the new Brisbane-Port Macquarie service will be available when the date for the border opening is announced.