The resurrection of domestic travel is a beacon of hope for many a travel-lover. No longer stuck in our neighbourhoods, we can now holiday abroad in our home states. Beaches, rainforests, galleries and cafes await.
But this change doesn’t come without concern. It is a daunting prospect to head off again into what feels like a new and unknown travel space. How do you keep safe? Can you guarantee that getting out and about is the right decision? Airlines are working hard to implement rigid safety measures to protect and reassure their passengers. QANTAS has implemented its new Fly Well programme which includes minimising contact and ramping up sanitisation. Virgin Australia has introduced similar initiatives.
Check out these top 5 changes made by Aussie airlines to keep you safe:
Before you fly
Virgin Australia is sending their passengers an information pack in advance covering what they can expect to encounter at airports and onboard Virgin aircraft. Check-in is now largely completed online or using the QANTAS or Virgin apps, prior to arriving at the airport.
At the airport
At your airport, there is the option of using self-service bag drops to further reduce time spent at service desks. All self-service kiosks at Australian airports are cleaned regularly, there are hygiene screens at customer service desks and you can easily find hand sanitiser stations. Social distancing regulations are in place, particularly at departure gates.
All lounges, meeting rooms and valet parking is closed. QANTAS Frequent Flyer memberships and lounge access have been extended automatically for six months to account for these closures.
On the plane
Passengers will self-scan boarding passes to enter the plane.
Both QANTAS and Virgin are offering modified service to minimise contact between passengers and with staff. They have reduced food and beverage services and inflight entertainment offerings on board. Water and snacks only are provided on domestic flights, so passengers are encouraged to pack their own meals.
QANTAS and Virgin aircrafts already use a hospital-grade HEPA filter system in their air-conditioning, which removes 99.9% of air particles such as viruses. Airflow is refreshed from outside every few minutes.
When you board a QANTAS flight, you’ll receive a Fly Well pack containing face masks and sanitising wipes to use as you see fit.
Importantly, cleaning processes have been intensified, with extra sanitisation of high-contact areas such as seating and toilets.
When you book
QANTAS in particular has undertaken some changes so that you can relax when you make a booking. Their Fly Flexible program means the change fee for changing your date of travel will be waived once. If your flight or booking was cancelled on QANTAS, you can choose to receive flight credit or a refund in return, or to be booked on the next available flight. If you make a booking with a third party such as Jetstar or a travel agent, they will instead be your point of contact.
Your options with Virgin Australia depend on when you made your booking and when you were due to fly. If you booked before April 21 2020, for example, for a flight before 30 September, all change fees will be waived. Check out the details here.
By July 6th, Virgin will be operating 320 domestic flights per week. You can check out their schedule here. QANTAS is also increasing services between capital cities and regional destinations, and will continue to do so in July in time for the school holidays. At present, Melbourne and Sydney have the most return services per week at 46, while Brisbane and Sydney have 21, Launceston and Melbourne have 5 and Brisbane and Darwin have 2. Resumed intrastate service offer access to Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Cairns, Fraser Coast, Kangaroo Island, Broome and Exmouth, depending on your home state.
The most important thing, as conditions continue to change rapidly, is to keep checking updates regularly. QANTAS, Virgin and airport websites such as Sydney Airport provide the latest information. Smartraveller and Tourism Australia are great for confirming travel regulations.
It isn’t just the airlines who are jumping on board to keep travellers comfortable and healthy. Accor Hotels have introduced social distancing and sanitising stations in all common areas, as well as contactless check-in, check-out and payment. Extra room cleaning regulations include increased disinfection of high-contact areas and reinforced food safety standards are in place at Accor restaurants. All employees have had comprehensive safety and hygiene training. If you have any questions, Accor have opened a dedicated guest hotline.