Since the end of 2021, most states and territories have started relaxing international and domestic borders so that fully-vaccinated travellers can… well, travel. (I’m still looking on wistfully from the sunny shores of WA).
Still, it’s not quite business as usual. The overall domestic travel experience is different to how it was pre-COVID. These days, you’re mandated to wear masks while at the airport and onboard your flight, and you need to keep an eye on the travel restrictions that exist. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Check for entry requirements
Some 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 can I travel to freely?
|Legend: ✔️ = quarantine-free travel permitted | ⭕ = restrictions in place|
Below are the Australian state and territory entry requirements as of Wednesday 2 February 2022. Please note this is general advice only and refers to fully-vaccinated and healthy travellers who are not currently ill or showing a positive test from COVID-19. Be sure to check government websites for the latest information, as this can change quickly.
- ✔️ New South Wales: No permit or COVID-19 test required.
- ✔️ Victoria: No permit or COVID-19 test required.
- ✔️ Queensland: No permit or COVID-19 test required.
- ✔️ South Australia: No permit or COVID-19 test required.
- ⭕ Western Australia: You must apply for a G2G Pass. Entry is restricted at present under the ‘controlled border’.
- ✔️ Tasmania: No permit or COVID-19 test required. Unvaccinated travellers need an exemption.
- ✔️ Australian Capital Territory: No permit or COVID-19 test required.
- ✔️ Northern Territory: You must complete a Border Entry Form. No COVID-19 test required.
2. Know when to wear a mask
In early 2021, it became a requirement nationwide to be wearing a face mask when at the 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! But note that some foreign countries are mandating N95/FFP2 single-use masks as a minimum.
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 wear masks while at the airport and onboard.
3. Qantas, Virgin and Rex still offer fare flexibility
The good news? 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.
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: Unlimited free flight changes for domestic flights booked and for travel up to 30 April 2022.
Reward seats: No fee for changes or cancellations to Classic Flight Rewards on domestic Qantas-operated flights up to 30 April 2022.
Cash fare: Unlimited changes or cancel to Travel Bank for free, for domestic flights until 30 April 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 30 April 2022.
A full refund is offered if you can’t make the flight due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, even if the flight still goes ahead.
You’ll receive a full credit for your booking if the flight is affected by border restrictions, including those that would render you unable to travel or would result in home quarantine. You can also change a booking once for free, until 30 April 2022.
You can also buy a FareCredit add-on at the time of booking to enable you to cancel your booking for any reason before airport check-in opens, and receive the full balance as a credit.
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 them for travel! Of course, Rex still offers 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 is expected to re-open in the coming months, depending on travel demand. At the time of writing:
- Qantas: Most domestic lounges, plus selected international lounges are open. 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
Domestic travel is slowly returning to normal – but we’re not back to pre-COVID times just yet. Even though most internal borders are open currently, we know from prior experience that the situation can change quickly.
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 we’d suggest you still follow other safety precautions where you can.
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, it could be useful to discuss a backup 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.