The Land Down Under may have reopened its borders to international students in December. However, some students are still having issues flying to Australia due to the limited availability of flights.
Last week, Traveller reported that only two China-based carriers are operating flights to Australia — before the pandemic, this number was nine. On Saturday, ABC News reported that only three airlines are offering direct flights between China and Australia.
April Lyu is one such student who has been affected by the limited availability of flights. The 18-year-old was due to start the first year of her food science degree at the University of Sydney, but was told by China Eastern Airlines earlier this month that her flight from Hangzhou to Sydney was cancelled.
Rather than viewing it as a harbinger of doom, Lyu told ABC News that she was partly relieved that her trip was delayed over COVID-19 concerns. She said her friends and relatives have been telling her not to come to Australia at the moment. She plans to study online for the first semester and hopefully fly to Australia mid-year.
Two of her friends who booked the same flight as her have found other flights flying to Australia in February, while another friend is planning on studying remotely for the time being.
Another student, Olivia Li, booked a flight from Guangzhou to Sydney, which remains on schedule. Not unlike Lyu, the master’s student is unsure about flying to Australia with the current COVID-19 situation.
A University of Sydney spokesperson was quoted saying that they were aware of the high demand for international flights, adding that a NSW government and universities joint programme was continuing “to support the return of students, including assisting students to access existing seats on commercial flights into Sydney”.
Flying into Australia: What’s the current situation like?
In February 2020, Morrison announced that foreign arrivals from mainland China would not be allowed entry into Australia in a bid to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. The world’s second-largest economy has a zero-COVID policy, and most foreigners are unable to travel to China.
The Traveller reported that even if and when the pandemic is no longer a threat to world travel, China-based airlines are unlikely to be flying to Australia soon.
In one week at the beginning of January 2022, China recorded fewer than 500 inbound international flights, compared with about 10,000 in the same week in January 2020, said the report. China’s burgeoning domestic travel follows the ban on international travel.
Separately, Australia is currently experiencing a shortage of self-testing kits. NDTV said the shortage of at-home rapid antigen test kits became a problem after asymptomatic close contacts were told to bypass government-funded testing hubs, where high volumes delayed results by several days, and take their own tests.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that the shortage of rapid antigen tests is not a problem unique to Australia, but worldwide.