Australians are rushing to buy tickets for interstate and overseas travel, Qantas and Virgin Australia have reported, as the country reaches the 70% vaccination targets needed to reopen.
The airlines said they had recorded surges in flight bookings on Monday after Victoria and Queensland announced plans to reopen their borders.
On Tuesday Victoria confirmed it would ease border rules with NSW.
From midnight there will be no “red zones” in NSW, with all of Greater Sydney moving to orange and most other areas to green.
Unvaccinated arrivals from orange zones into Victoria must get tested within 72 hours and remain isolated until they get a negative result.
It means that from midnight on Tuesday fully-vaccinated people who have been in the Greater Sydney area can enter Victoria on an orange zone permit without any quarantine or testing requirements.
Virgin Australia reported traffic to its website soared by 100% on Monday, with an 134% overall increase in bookings following Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s announcement outlining the state’s roadmap to reopening.
A Virgin Australia spokesperson said almost 50% of these bookings were for travel in December and January.
“Already we can see travellers are excited by the prospects of flying again, which has been evident by the significant uplift in website traffic and bookings,” the spokesperson said.
The most popular flights were between Melbourne and Brisbane, Brisbane and Cairns, and Melbourne and the Gold Coast.
The airline also reported it was the “single largest day” of points spent on Virgin’s loyalty program since June, with a 150% bump in redemption bookings.
Qantas reported almost two billion points were redeemed on international flights in the first two weeks of going on sale, despite the fact international travel restrictions are still in place.
After Qantas brought forward its planned restart date for international flights to November 14, thousands of frequent flyers snapped up seats on flights between Sydney and London, and Sydney and Los Angeles
On October 20 Qantas released millions of additional seats across international and domestic routes to be booked with points, making it easier for frequent flyers to book a holiday in 2022.
“There’s no doubt we will appreciate travel in 2022 like never before and Qantas is excited to help Australians rediscover the joy of flying,” Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth said on Tuesday.
To further boost the economic recovery, on Wednesday the NSW government announced eligible NSW residents will soon be able to apply for $50 accommodation vouchers to help boost post-lockdown tourism in the state.
The new Stay and Rediscover voucher scheme — similar to the NSW Dine and Discover vouchers — were debuted by Premier Dominic Perrottet as part of a $500 million tourism recovery package.
The vouchers will be trialled this year for a March 2022 rollout, and will be valid at hotels, caravan parks and camping grounds.
The return of international travel is still being finalised by the federal government, with fully-vaccinated Australians able to travel overseas with minimal restrictions by the end of the year.
Last week Premier Perrottet jumped ahead of Prime Minister Scott Morrison by announcing the state would reopen to international travel, scrapping hotel quarantine for international arrivals including vaccinated Australians from November 1.
However Morrison pushed back on this, saying returning Australians would have the first priority before international tourism could resume.
The cap on returning citizens and permanent residents will lift for the fully-vaccinated from November 1. Certain international flights are also expected to resume from mid-December.