VICTORIA’S airports reopened to international flights last week, but they will likely not return to the skies over Avalon Airport for some time yet.
Malaysian airline AirAsia was flying twice daily to and from Kuala Lumpur before the COVID-19 pandemic but suspended passenger flights just over a year ago on March 19, 2020.
Speaking this week, Avalon Airport Justin Giddings said Victoria’s cap on international arrivals to Melbourne’s airports (jncluding Avalon) was presently set at only 800 arrivals per week, so it was not viable for AirAsia to restart flights yet.
“There’d probably only be four or five people allowed on the plane.”
He said Malaysia was also classified as a red zone by the federal government because of the country’s high levels of COVID-19.
“We’re really waiting for the Malaysian COVID fight to get better, but also for those caps to lift to allow people to fly out.
“I suspect if AirAsia does start operating, it’ll be with freight first. They’ve done a few freight runs to Avalon over the period, but there were no passengers on board.”
Indonesian airline Citilink, which operates flights between Avalon and Denpasar, Bali, has also postponed its operations because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The weekly cap on international arrivals to Melbourne will increase to 1,120 today (Thursday, April 15) but Mr Giddings said it would have to be at least four or five times higher – in the order of 5,000 to 6,000 arrivals – for any international carrier to consider flights in and out of Avalon.
“It’s going to be really difficult to have a viable international operation when you have any caps at all, to be honest, and that’s a long way away.”
Avalon Airport is also among the leading contenders to house a COVID-19 quarantine facility purpose-built by the state government, with Premier Daniel Andrews describing it and Melbourne Airport as “the two obvious candidates” in mid-February.
At the time, Mr Andrews said a delegation of senior officials would travel to the Northern Territory as soon as practicable to see first-hand how the Howard Springs facility was set up, but a state government spokesperson said this week that there were no updates on the project.
Mr Giddings said he likewise had not heard anything further about the proposal.
“We’re just waiting to see how the government wants to go. We still stand there ready to support it if the government chooses to go down that direction.
“I really do think there’s going to be a need for quarantine from some parts of the world for years. You look at India and Africa, even at the US, where the numbers are coming down really well – it will really depend on how effective the vaccine is and how widely distributed it is.”
There is better news on the domestic front, as Mr Giddings said Avalon had resumed all of its pre-COVID flight routes.
“I knew that once the borders opened, I knew domestic flights would be very strong, so I’m not surprised, I’m just hopeful we can increase beyond 100 per cent.”
The Australian International Airshow is still on track to be held at and above Avalon from November 30 to December 5 this year.