Monday 15 March 2021 is a milestone; it’s the first day that all interstate quarantine restrictions are lifted nationwide and anyone within Australia can fly freely to other state and territories with relative ease (barring any further outbreaks, of course).
But don’t expect the overall domestic travel experience to be as easy as it was pre-COVID. These days, you’re mandated to wear masks while at the airport and onboard any flight, and you’ll likely have to apply for travel permits as well. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Check for entry requirements
Most Australian states and territories may require you to apply for a permit before entry, even if you’re a resident returning from a trip.
This is normally quick and easy to do online — and as long as the borders remain open — should be approved almost instantly after submission.
Which states and territories require a travel permit domestically?
|Legend: ✔️ = no permit required when no outbreaks | ⭕ = permit required|
Below are the Australian state and territory entry requirements as of Tuesday 16 March 2021. Be sure to check government websites for the latest information, as this can change quickly.
- ✔️ New South Wales: No permit required when there are no travel restrictions in place.
- ⭕ Victoria: You must apply for a permit via Service Victoria. No quarantine is required when travelling from a ‘Green Zone’.
- ✔️ Queensland: No border pass is required when there are no COVID-19 hotspots in Australia.
- ⭕ South Australia: You must apply for a Cross Border Travel Registration via SAPOL. No quarantine is required unless travelling from certain ‘high-risk sites’.
- ⭕ Western Australia: You must apply for a G2G Pass. No quarantine is required when travelling from ‘very low risk’ states and territories.
- ⭕ Tasmania: You must register your contact details through Tas e-Travel when coming from low-risk areas, or through G2G Pass from medium- and high-risk areas. No quarantine is required when travelling from ‘low risk’ states and territories.
- ✔️ Australian Capital Territory: No registration is necessary when travelling to the ACT from non ‘COVID-19 affected areas.’
- ⭕ Northern Territory: You must complete a Border Entry Form. No quarantine is required if you haven’t visited a declared COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days.
2. Know when to wear a mask
From 9 January 2021, it became a requirement nation-wide to be wearing a face mask whenever at an airport or travelling onboard a flight within Australia and to New Zealand. However, you may temporarily remove them while eating or drinking.
Most airlines, including Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar, can provide ‘fly safe’ kits with masks and wipes. However, it’s still best to have your own reusable masks, if only for environmental (and fashion) reasons!
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to carry at least three masks with you when flying. That way, you have spares if needed, particularly if the destination you’re travelling to also requires them for specific places (e.g. on public transport or at the theatre to see a show).
Who doesn’t need to wear a mask?
Currently, children under 12 years of age and those with relevant medical conditions are exempt from wearing a mask when travelling. All other travellers must continue to do so while at the airport and onboard.
3. Qantas, Virgin and Rex still offer fare flexibility
The good news is when you buy a fare, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Rex are still offering some form of fare flexibility, even on reward seats and the cheapest sale tickets. This is also expected to extend to the government-supported 50% off fares during April-July 2021.
At the time of writing, here are the flight change policies of major Australian airlines. Be sure to check for the most recent policy if you do decide to book:
Cash fare: One free flight change made before 30 April 2021 for travel up to 31 January 2022. A fare difference applies.
Reward seats: No fee for changes or cancellations to Classic Flight Rewards on Qantas-operated flights up to 31 January 2022 when booked before 30 April 2021.
Cash fare: Unlimited changes or cancel to Travel Bank for free, by 30 April 2021 for flights until 31 January 2022. A fare difference applies to changes if you change fare class, routing or cabin class.
Reward seats: No fee for changes or cancellations to reward seats up to 31 January 2022 when booked before 30 April 2021.
A full refund offered if you can’t make the flight due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, even if the flight still goes ahead.
Point Hacks tip: Qantas and Velocity reward seats offer better flexibility compared to cash tickets. If you have a stash of Qantas Points or Velocity Points, now is the time to use it for travel! Of course, Rex does still offer the best refund policy overall.
4. Most domestic lounges are now open
The vast majority of Qantas, Virgin Australia and Rex lounges are now open for business for your pre-flight enjoyment. The remainder are expected to re-open in the coming months, depending on travel demand. At the time of writing:
- Qantas: 29 domestic lounges are open and six (all Qantas Clubs) are closed. See here for the latest updates.
- Virgin Australia: All seven domestic lounges are now open. See here for the latest updates.
- Rex: All three lounges are open. Read more about Rex lounges.
5. Don’t become complacent, and be aware plans can change quickly
Finally, it would be foolish for anyone to believe that domestic travelling is back to pre-COVID times. Even though all internal borders are open currently, we know from prior experience that this freedom can be fleeting.
Do your best to physically distance yourself from others where possible. Of course, this isn’t practical in a lot of locations (including onboard a plane) as capacity restrictions are lifted, but still follow other safety precautions.
Practice good hygiene, especially with washing your hands after coughing and sneezing. Wear a mask when required and change it often. If you have reusable masks, be sure to wash them regularly as well.
We’d recommend downloading the local government apps for any state or territory you travel to, particularly if QR-code scanning for contact tracing is required in those locations.
Finally, be prepared for the remote possibility that you may have to cut your trip short and potentially even complete a 14-day quarantine at home if the border situation changes rapidly. Those in Western Australia may remember the pain of being told about a quarantine change mid-flight!
It could be useful to discuss a back-up plan with your loved ones and your workplace if you travel. Try to book flexible accommodation and get the most flexible airfares possible. There’s no insurance that can cover these changes due to government-mandated border closures.
At least, if you book reward seats with frequent flyer points, then you could be eligible for a full refund and won’t end up turning your hard-earned cash into airline credits. At Point Hacks, we can’t stress that enough. Safe travels!
Need some inspiration on how to boost your Qantas or Velocity points balance and get travelling domestically quicker? Here are our top points credit card sign-up offers.