Emptier-than-usual planes are a common sight these days, but on these flights to Australia you might feel like you’ve booked a private plane. To comply with the government’s international arrival restrictions, some planes flying into Australia are carrying as few as four passengers in economy, prioritizing business passenger bookings to capitalize on the higher ticket prices and remain profitable.
Under the government’s restrictions, some flights are limited to as few as 30 passengers. A representative for Qatar Airways — one of the very few airlines to still fly into Australia — told The Guardian, “In order to ensure the continued viability of our operations to Australia, [the] commercial value of tickets sold must also be taken into consideration to be able to operate each flight.”
This is the economy cabin on a recent Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Sydney pic.twitter.com/IpVR6YZHNN
— Elias Visontay (@EliasVisontay) August 18, 2020
That means airlines keep bumping economy passengers to later flights while knowing they may not actually be able to go anywhere unless they upgrade.
The result of limited flight capacities has left Australians stranded overseas, unable to secure a flight home unless they book a business-class seat. According to The Guardian, several Australians who traveled briefly overseas are now trapped away from home, unable to secure a seat in any flight.
Australia’s passenger limits were introduced in July, and are likely to continue until October 24. Sydney’s airport is limited to 350 international passenger arrivals per day, while Perth only allows 75 per day. Although there have been calls to lift the caps, and increase permitted traveler numbers, the government has thus far refused to do so in order to not add pressure on hotels hosting quarantined travelers coming from abroad.