Australia To Open Borders For Vaccinated International Travelers

The country began a staged reopening in November 2021.

Credit: Rob Finlayson

After more than two years of strict COVID-19 border restrictions, Australia will allow vaccinated international passengers to travel to the country from Feb. 21, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. 

Australia joins a growing list of Asia-Pacific countries, including Vietnam and Thailand, to relax border policies in recent weeks. “If you're double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia," Morrison said during a press briefing. 

Except for a vaccinated travel lane with Singapore and a trans-Tasman “bubble” with New Zealand, Australia has remained largely shut off for tourists from the rest of the world. Even domestically, Australian states restricted movement between states. 

IATA welcomed Australia’s move, noting that the Asia-Pacific region has been slow to open up, but has seen “growing momentum” in border rules relaxation in recent weeks.

“We urge other governments in the Asia-Pacific to look at similarly further easing their border restrictions so as to enable aviation businesses to accelerate their much needed recovery and to bring maximum benefits to their economies,” IATA Asia-Pacific regional VP Philip Goh said. 

Australia started a staged international border reopening on Nov. 1, 2021, when international flights to/from Sydney (SYD) and other major cities commenced again. Morrison said the country has seen around 580,000 passenger arrivals since Nov. 1, primarily comprising Australian citizens, permanent residents and students. He noted tourism generated more than A$60 billion ($42.5 billion) for the Australian economy for the 2018- 2019 two-year, pre-pandemic period.

CAPA/OAG data shows SYD, Australia’s busiest airport, handled 1.2 million passengers in December 2021, down significantly from 4 million passengers handled in December 2019. 

New Zealand has said it will also reopen its borders. The process will start in stages at the end of February: New Zealand will first allow vaccinated citizens and visa holders coming from Australia to enter the country, followed by a reopening to vaccinated passengers from the rest of the world.