[News] Hundreds of Aussies today stepped up to be guinea pigs as Jetstar restarted direct flights to Bali, a service that the coronavirus pandemic put on hold for almost two years.
More than 300 passengers were booked on the first flight to Denpasar International Airport with passengers flocking to Melbourne with their stack of documents in hand.
While the check-in desks were filled with helpful and knowledgeable Jetstar staff, there’s no denying the travel process is very different to what it was pre-pandemic.
Lines move slowly as documents need to be checked, PCR results need to be verified and staff ensure vaccination certificates are legitimate.
Jetstar informed passengers of all their requirements prior to arriving at the airport but a large portion of customers appeared to forget to fill out their customs declaration form and download the Bali Covid app and create a health card – two vital parts of the check-in process.
Passengers stood at the check-in desks frantically trying to download and complete these forms but there was no denying this added to the overall wait time and sluggish queues experienced by some customers.
Speaking at Melbourne International Airport before the flight, Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans said his main message to passengers was to “be prepared”.
Mr Evans said of course there would be plenty of staff ready to assist if necessary.
Travel restrictions were dramatically eased by Indonesia this week, with Australians only requiring two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, a negative PCR test, proof of a hotel booking for at least three nights and Covid insurance.
The close to sold out flight today, on one of Jetstar’s Boeing 787 aircrafts marked the first time the airline flew to Bali since March 26, 2020.
The airline’s recent “Un-Bali-Vable” sale, that offered passengers one-way fares for $99, saw Jetstar sell more than 40,000 fares in a single day – the highest number of seats sold to Bali in a single day in more than five years.
Mr Evans said Bali had always been the most popular international destination in Jetstar’s network, and that he was looking forward to further restrictions dropping in Bali which would not only help the airport process, but also encourage more Aussies to travel overseas.
“Obviously, any restrictions are a sort of inhibitor and we’ve definitely seen that,” he said.
“As restrictions ease, more demand comes on.
“We’ve not flown to Bali to date because the restrictions have been too great … but we now think we’re at a point where restrictions are at such a level that people are prepared to fly and I think our sale and what we’re seeing today as is an example of that.
“We’ve also seen that in other markets, through restrictions being eased further and demand comes on even more.”
Mr Evans said the airline was in a position to “flexibly add capacity” when they started to see demand pick up again.
“And I think we are going to see that demand come on as people get increasingly comfortable with traveling internationally,” he said.
Before Covid, the airline was operating 85 return flights a week between Australia and the Indonesian island – equating to two million passengers each year.
“We are very excited to return to Bali today after two long years, and we are confident that Bali will quickly regain its position as our most popular international tourist destination now that borders are open,” he said.
Australians contributed more than two billion dollars a year to the Balinese economy and Mr Evans said he hoped to see the tourism industry bounce back.
“Today is an important milestone for us at Jetstar, and also for the local businesses in Bali who have been heavily impacted by the lack of tourism during the pandemic,” he said.
“We extend our thanks to the Indonesian Government for their support and look forward to continuing to work together to help the Balinese tourism industry bounce back as quickly as possible.”
Jetstar’s flights from Melbourne will initially operate three times weekly, with plans to ramp up as demand increases.
Bali flights from Sydney and Perth are scheduled to recommence in early April, with flights from Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns and Darwin scheduled for May.