Australians stranded in the United Kingdom and Europe will once again be able to fly home from London via Singapore, after the country lifted a ban on people transiting through Changi Airport from Britain.
The Singaporean government's decision last week to block anyone travelling from the UK amid an outbreak of a potentially more contagious strain of COVID-19 there cut off one of the few remaining connections between Australia and the UK.
But a Singapore Airlines spokesman confirmed on Friday that it had received government approval to carry passengers from London’s Heathrow Airport onwards to Sydney and Auckland via Singapore.
Passengers connecting through to Australia will have to remain in the aircraft on the ground in Singapore and will be segregated from other passengers on board. They must also return a negative result for the COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of their flight.
“The health and safety of our staff and customers remain our utmost priority, and [Singapore Airlines] will continue to employ stringent health and safety measures on the ground and in the air to ensure the well-being of our passengers and crew," the spokesman said.
Singapore Airlines has been operating about 30 flights into Australia per week in recent months, flying into all mainland capital cities. However, they have been limited to around 30 passengers per flight due to Australia's cap on international arrivals.
The carrier brought 2760 passengers into Australia in October, and was responsible for around 7.5 per cent of international passenger traffic in and out of the country that month, according to data from the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics.
That made it the fourth busiest carrier behind Qatar Airways, Air New Zealand and Emirates.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said that 63,109 Australians were able to get home from overseas since September 18, which was more than double the 26,000 the government had targeted.
Mr Morrison said that while there were more people trying to make it back, the government would continue to help repatriate them and expand quarantine capacity in places like the Northern Territory.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the Morrison government had failed to get Australians home by Christmas as it had promised, with 30,000 still stranded abroad.
“The fact is that the Prime Minister made a very clear commitment and so many thousands of those people remain stranded overseas and isolated from their families and from support,” he said.
Meanwhile with states and territories reinstating border and travel restrictions locally, Qantas has been forced to schedule an additional last-minute flight from Melbourne to Brisbane on Friday after being hit with a spike in demand. The airline's move suggests that holidaymakers are increasingly getting skittish about further domestic border closures.
Victoria and South Australia will slam their borders to NSW shut at midnight Friday, while Western Australia will extend its hard border with NSW to Victoria.
The Queensland-Victoria border remains open but there were enough people making last-minute bookings from Melbourne to Brisbane for Qantas to schedule an additional flight at 5.35pm.
Budget carrier Jetstar is also cancelling some flights between Sydney and Melbourne starting tomorrow, with the border closure upending summer travel plans for thousands.