Flying from Spain to Australia in the pandemic

In February 2021 I flew from Barcelona to Perth, Australia. This involved not just one long haul flight, but two. The first leg, Barcelona to Dubai is 6½ hours and the second, Dubai to Perth is another 10½ hours beyond that.  I’d flown short-haul in Europe during COVID, so I knew this much longer trip trip would be an unusual experience. That’s why I took a video camera.

As you would expect, the full suite of anti-COVID measures was in action. All passengers were required to show proof that they’d taken and passed a COVID PCR test in the 72 hours before take-off. Of course,  at the airport, everyone had to maintain social distance and wear masks. Onboard the aircraft, passengers were required to wear masks for the entire flight, even when sleeping – apart from when eating or drinking. The cabin crew were wrapped in full protective equipment.

But the real surprise was on the second leg, Dubai to Perth. It was practically empty!

The Boeing 777 ER model we flew on is capable of carrying more than 350 passengers. On our Perth leg, the flight had just 39 passengers and most of them were in the premium sections.  It was spooky to walk through the economy sections and see row after row of empty seats. There were just 9 people in economy!

The reason?  Australia’s limited quarantine capacity. At the time of my flight, the entire country was accepting just 5000 people in each week. That’s from all flights in a week, not just this one. So for the airlines restricted to carrying so few passengers, it makes sense to sell their most valuable seats first. That’s why it’s so hard to find any economy tickets from anywhere to Australia. There’s no shortage of seats on planes, just a shortage of places in quarantine.

So when you hear federal government politicians talking about “repatriation flights” for people stranded overseas, it’s just blah, blah, blah intended to deflect attention from their failure to do anything to expand the country’s quarantine capacity – a full year after this pandemic began.

Basically, if you can’t stump up for a premium seat – you are going to find it extremely difficult to return to Australia anytime soon.

However, if you are thinking of returning to Australia, here’s a link to the official advice:

Official Advice for returning to Australia

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