Qantas international flights resuming: Passengers advised to arrive four hours before flight for new processes

When flight attendant Megan Walmsley takes off at 10.25 on Monday night aboard QF11 from Sydney to Los Angeles - her first such service for two years - she understandably expects to feel a sense of elation and relief. She won't be the only one.

For passengers aboard the flight, a good many who will be heading to the US to reunite with loved ones, there will no doubt be a sense of catharsis after having completed new and onerous airport pre-boarding procedures and protocols.

However, Walmsley vows she will do everything in her power as a flight supervisor to smooth the way en route to LA as well as on the return leg, which is bound to be an emotional journey for returning expatriate Australians who won't have embraced relatives and friends for at least 20 months.

"We're in the people business and not the plane business," she says. "I'm really, really excited about the prospect of being reunited with our customers and also my flight crew colleagues who I've been in touch with throughout the pandemic."

Qantas, which is set to resume international flights on November 1, has provided insights into what its fully-vaccinated passengers will face when flying and what it plans to do to help alleviate their stress.

One thing is for sure. The days of cutting it fine will be well and truly over. Even though passengers are asked to check-in for flights online with Qantas via "revamped digital booking and pre-departure experience tailored to each customer's journey" on its website and app, they will also be required by the airline to arrive at the airport four hours before departure.

That's roughly the equivalent of a flight between Sydney and Perth, should any of us be able to fly there.

As expected, they will also be required to wear a mask from the moment they set foot in the terminal, as well as on the aircraft, removing it only for food service. They will also likely have to keep it on until they leave the terminal at their destination.

Not since post-September 11, 2001, will flying overseas be such a complex and stressful process with passengers still having to deal with the full range of security procedures combined with added COVID-19 measures and paperwork.


Passengers will be able to upload their vaccine and testing documentation via integration with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass app before they get to the airport.

A modest total of 40 international flight movements are planned for Sydney Airport on Monday. While Qantas asks its passengers to arrive at the airport four hours before departure, a spokesman for Sydney Airport is recommending in general that passengers arrive no later than three hours before an international flight but expects many to opt for four hours.

Qantas passengers can expect a lot of (no doubt sanitised) "hand-holding through the process" from the airline and its staff even before they board as they will have been sent all necessary information before they arrive at the airport, says Stephanie Tully, Qantas group chief customer officer.

"We have redesigned our digital booking experience with world-first technology to help our customers easily navigate the post COVID-19 world of international travel," she says, "and guide them through each step, including regular checklists sent via text ahead of flights."

 Qantas flight attendant Wassim Dakarmanji won't get his own chance to resume flying until December but he's also excited by the prospect.

"We want people to buy plane tickets in the same way they were buying loo paper during the pandemic," he says. "My advice to our customers is not to be nervous about the restart of international travel as we will be on hand to help you through every step of the way."

Qantas is also seizing the opportunity of the historic resumption of international flights to introduce some new elements to its cabin experience.

They include a new pre-departure onboard Indigenous "welcome to country" announcement, along with fashionable "plant-based" dishes on its menu. There's also a new "signature" cocktail, Qantas Sky Spritz, featuring Australian botanicals. Flight attendants can't drink on the job, of course, but passengers will certainly be welcoming a stiff drink.

See also: COVID-19 insurance available after 'do not travel' warning scrapped

See also: Can you come home? What happens if you catch COVID on holiday