What to know if your travels are affected by the domestic travel ban

Posted: 24 March 2020 12:05 pm

Road leading into Brisbane CBD.

Which borders are closing and how airlines and hotels are responding.

In an effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve, the government has announced a domestic travel ban on non-essential travel.

As a result, Tasmania, Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia have closed their borders. This means that any non-essential travellers into each must self-isolate for 14 days once they arrive.

This includes residents returning home but excludes essential emergency service workers, health services and goods and freight staff.

Failure to comply with these isolation rules can attract a fine of up to $16,800 or 6 months in prison. This is based on Tasmania's current closure.

These are the shut-down times per state or territory:

  • Tasmania: As of Saturday 21 March
  • Queensland: From midnight Wednesday 25 March
  • Northern Territory: From 4pm, 24 March
  • South Australia: From 4pm, 24 March
  • Western Australia: From 1.30pm AWST, 24 March
  • Hamilton Island: Is denying entry to anyone who isn't a resident or essential service worker

Anyone who has domestic travel booked in the near future is encouraged to cancel, or face mandatory isolation.

Even if your travels are to states that haven't issued a ban yet, the situation is constantly evolving, as are the border rules. If your trip isn't essential it may be best to cancel or postpone it anyway.

So, what do you need to know if you had travel plans?

Airlines are offering to fly you home early

In compliance with the new border closures, domestic airlines are offering greater flexibility to get residents home as soon as possible.

Anyone booked on a Virgin Australia or flight departing on or before Friday 27 March 2020 can bring their booking forward.

Those in a rush to return can take their ticket to the airline check-in counters on 24 March 2020 to be moved onto the next available flight fee-free. Otherwise, travellers can contact the airline's guest services to rebook.

  • Virgin Australia: 13 67 89

Anyone due to travel before or on 30 June 2020 can also opt to delay their plans. Again, this will be fee-free, however any differences in airfare prices will have to be paid. Cancellations are also available to anyone travelling in the next four weeks and will be refunded with a travel voucher, valid for 12 months.

Qantas and Jetstar haven't announced flexibility around bringing domestic travels forward. However, all flights with travel dates until 31 May may be cancelled penalty-free before 31 March 2020.

Similar to Virgin Australia, refunds will be in the form of travel credit. This must be redeemed by 30 September or 12 months from the original ticket issue – whichever is later.

Major hotel chains are waiving cancellation fees

Even before these domestic travel bans were placed, hotel chains including Marriott and Hilton were allowing travellers to cancel or postpone their stays fee-free.

Bookings need to have been for certain dates, with both Marriott and Hilton offering this for stays before or on 30 April. Cancellations must also be made up to 24 hours prior to arrival to avoid fees.

Cancellations become a little more difficult with non-refundable stays made through online booking agents such as Expedia or Booking.com. However, many are working to offer flexibility.

Expedia is offering full refunds on non-refundable stays booked prior to 19 March for stays between 20 March and 30 April 2020. Eligible cancellations must be made 24-hours before check-in. You can find out more here .

Airbnb is also letting holidaymakers (and homeowners) cancel bookings for free for stays until 14 April.

If you had interstate travels booked that you now wish to cancel, check with your hotel or travel agent as soon as possible to see if you can cancel or, at the very least, postpone the dates of your stay.

Hotels are offering discounted long-stay rates and isolation packages

With many of the state border restrictions coming into effect on 24 March, there's no doubt some Australians will be forced to self-isolate upon their return.

In response, hotels and serviced apartments have begun offering self-isolation packages which feature everything from increased room cleaning to unlimited Netflix access.

The Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites brand is one of the larger chains accommodating those in quarantine. It's offering guests 20% off long stay rates and the use of in-room grocery and food delivery and high-speed Wi-Fi. Fresh linen is also available on request, delivered contact-free to your door.

SKYE Suites hotels have launched "Self Care and Fresh Air City Staycation" packages for anyone called to self-isolate and might be stuck outside of their state's borders. It's offering long-term stays with keyless entry, limitless Netlifx and 24-hour food delivery in its Sydney and Parramatta outfits. Prices start from $115 per night.

Other options are Unyoked, which offers off-the-grid accommodation, now with increased cleaning. Or, remote stays via Airbnb, many of which feature unlimited Wi-Fi, Netflix and contactless food delivery options.

Domestic travel insurance could cover you

If you purchased domestic travel insurance before the ban was announced, this could cover you for any out of pocket expenses incurred if you are forced to cancel your plans.

Select credit cards also offer complimentary domestic travel insurance if you purchased most of your trip with it. Contact your bank or credit card company to check.

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