The Rapidly Changing Rules of International Air Travel

The ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a flood of confusing rules.  This is particularly true in relation to international air travel.  Borders open and then close again.  Some countries demand quarantine on entering, some airlines require health declarations before boarding.  Today we hear  of a threat to that the second most popular route in the world, Sydney to Melbourne by new travel restrictions in Australia.

Border Closures in Australia

Melbourne in Victoria, Australia
Melbourne in Victoria, Australia Credit: Kon Karampelas

A second wave of coronavirus cases is now affecting the Australian state of Victoria.  The virus has spread quickly from a quarantine hotel through local suburbs.  There are now more cases than first experienced.  As yet the full impact on international travel is unknown when the border between Victoria and New South Wales closes at midnight tomorrow (7 July).  However, restrictions have already affected a closure.   and Victoria is now in hard lockdown.  This is the first time this border has closed for one hundred years.  It will be a disaster for the airlines Qantas and Virgin Australia, the main operators of the Melbourne (Victoria) to Sydney (New South Wales) route.  Many passengers will be stranded in Melbourne and Sydney.

Sydney in New South Wales, Australia
Sydney in New South Wales, Australia Credit: vaun at unsplash

Australia is closing down  and the UK is opening up.  But its government is being is accused of confusing holidaymakers.

Easing of Travel Restrictions to and from the United Kingdom

Last Friday the British government did an about turn regarding air bridges and travel corridors.

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia launched the first travel corridors in May, allowing free movement for citizens of the three EU member states.  The UK tried and failed to negotiate similar arrangements with popular holiday destination.   Instead, they compiled a list of quarantine-free destinations.  A reference to the removal of the need to quarantine when passengers return fromthe designated destinations.  It did not guarantee a right to enter those countries without restrictions.  In other words, they abandoned air bridges in favour of this easier option.  Only twenty-five of the seventy-four designations destinations are open to arrivals without restrictions.

What does this mean for international travel?  Careful checks before booking a flight or a holiday.

Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport
Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport Credti: British Airways

Check Restrictions on Travel Both Ways

The onus is on all traveller to make certain checks.  Does the Foreign Office (or equivalent) advise against travel to the country concerned?  What regulations does your airline have in place?  Are there restrictions at the border on arrival? How does the airline or travel company deal with cancellations due to border closures?  Two databases will help travellers check their destinations.  Re-open EU focuses on members of the European Union.  The Timatic Database established by IATA is regularly updated and covers the whole world.

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