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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - Australia's largest airline operators Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia have suspended their remaining repatriation flights after the Federal government sais that it was examining whether further flights needed to be fund to get Australians home from abroad as foreign airlines have begun to resume their flights to Australia.
Under the government program, Qantas was flying a twice weekly London-Perth-Melbourne return service and a weekly Los Angeles-Melbourne service, the last of which landed on Monday morning.
Meanwhile Virgin - which is in voluntary administration seeking new owners - was flying a weekly Los Angeles-Brisbane service which ended Sunday.

Both airlines confirmed on Monday they had no further international passenger services scheduled following the end of the government scheme, with aircraft to be grounded and crews working the flights stood down.

A spokeswoman for the Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack said the scheme with Qantas and Virgin was established to get Australians home as soon as possible amid the pandemic.

"The government is reviewing the program noting there are now alternative commercial flight options available from London and Los Angeles," she said. The government also has previously arranged for ad hoc repatriation flights from Peru, Argentina, South Africa, and India.

Qantas will continue to fly some international freight flights and said it was ready to fly any further repatriation flights for the government as needed. A Qantas spokesman said the airline was "proud to have helped thousands of Australians return home as well as taking foreign nationals back in the other direction".

Over the weekend Mr. McCormack announced the government will extend the underwriting over a minimum number of domestic and regional flights operated by Qantas, Virgin, and Regional Express. The end of Qantas and Virgin’s Los Angeles flights leaves United Airlines’ daily Sydney-San Francisco service as the only direct passenger air link between Australia and the United States.

Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways have resumed regular flights connecting Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth to the UK, Europe, Middle East, and Asia via their Gulf hubs, while Air New Zealand is operating some trans-Tasman flights and Cathay Pacific is flying to Hong Kong.

Under current border restrictions, only Australian citizens, residents, and immediate family members can travel to Australia and must go into quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Australians have been banned from leaving the country since March 25 unless they receive an exemption because their travel relates to work combating the COVID-19 pandemic, is in an essential industry, is for medical treatment, or on compassionate or humanitarian grounds.


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