The Australian High Commission is planning a repatriation flight between South Africa and Australia. While the flight date is not yet confirmed it is expected to take place during November.

The flight arrangements follow a statement made by the Australian government last week that it would facilitate more flights to allow Australians to return home. There are currently more than 29 000 Australians registered with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) wishing to return to Australia.

“The government has finalised an initial programme with Qantas of eight flights over the coming weeks from London, New Delhi and Johannesburg. The DFAT officials will work with Qantas to ensure the most vulnerable Australians registered are given priority access to these flights,” said a statement published by the Prime Minster of Australia.

The Australian Government is underwriting the cost of the flights that it organizes in order to offer the airfares at commercial rates to passengers. DFAT is offering loans to those who need assistance and the government has stated that assistance is also available to help cover the costs of flights for vulnerable Australians where other sources of finance have been exhausted.

“At this stage we cannot tell you the date, booking process or destination for the Johannesburg flight but we will, of course, let you know further details on the flight for the time being – this information will be emailed to everyone on the register as it becomes available,” said the Australian High Commissioner, Gita Kamath.

No scheduled flights until mid-2021

Regional manager of Qantas, Michi Messner, said the carrier was in the process of removing its commercial flight inventory between South Africa and Australia until the end of March 2021 and that, due to the existing Australian regulations, did not expect to start flying until July 2021.

She explained that while Qantas would be operating the repatriation flight, the airline would not be in control of the flight arrangements or the cost of the airfare but explained that previous repatriation flights had been reasonably priced due to the Australian government subsidy.

The repatriation programme will also create capacity for more than 5 000 Australians to return over the next six months through its engagement with the Australian Northern Territory government to free up quarantine space for international travellers.

“In parallel, we are continuing to work with state and territory authorities to increase quarantine capacity through major airports, as well as for further facilitated flights. We are also continuing discussions to increase the number of airports receiving Australians from overseas,” continued the statement from the Prime Minister’s office.

“We continue to encourage Australians trying to return to Australia from overseas to register with DFAT through the nearest embassy or High Commission or via,” it added.