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Still no clarity on reopening: Singapore Airlines cancels flights to Australia

Singapore Airlines has blamed a lack of Australian government clarity about international travel on a decision to scrap dozens of pre-Christmas flights.

Singapore Airlines has blamed a lack of Australian government clarity about international travel on a decision to scrap dozens of pre-Christmas flights.

Cancellations between October and December are the latest blow to Australians stranded overseas desperately hoping to return before the end of the year.

Thousands of Australians have indicated to the Department of Foreign Affairs since the start of the COVID outbreak they wished to return home, but have been unable to do so.

Earlier this month, PM Scott Morrison said ex-pats had carried a “heavy burden” for the past 18 months.

The PM said Australians stuck overseas would be able to return home later this year and be able to quarantine at home.

However, Singapore Airlines spokesman Karl Schubert said the company had still not been told when international arrival caps would be lifted.

“We’ve had to make the very difficult decision that we simply can’t operate the two additional flights that we were hoping to do into Sydney and to other ports across Australia,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

The major airline has been unable to secure talks with the government.

“That has been frustrating at times, understanding that governments have had quite a lot of work to do and had their focus directed elsewhere,” Mr Schubert said.

“What we need to do is get airlines, airports, governments at state and federal level around the same table to talk about how Australia is going to reopen.”

Singapore Airlines A350

A national reopening plan has raised hopes international travel can resume when 80 per cent of Australians aged 18 and above are fully vaccinated.

Under that phase, caps on returning Australians would be abolished and capacity for students, economic migrants and refugees increased.

Restrictions on Australians leaving the country would be lifted and new quarantine free travel bubbles including with Singapore considered.

Only last week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a plan to restart international travel as early as November could be announced within days after the federal cabinet discussed the changes last Wednesday night.

But Mr Schubert said the rules around what travel would look like were unclear.

“We just don’t have the clarity we need to have the confidence to operate,” he said.

Singapore Airlines is currently operating two flights a day across four Australian airports, with passenger services carrying between 12 and 25 people.

Mr Schubert said more information from the government would allow flights to be reinstated.

“We have the capacity to move very quickly to reinstate operations where demands warrants.”

The federal government has announced that vaccine passports are being prepared to be rolled out from October this year in order for international travel to resume.