A large number of flights arriving at and departing from Sydney have been cancelled, following a fresh coronavirus outbreak in parts of the Australian city.

A new virus cluster, first discovered in northern Sydney a week ago, has grown to more than 80 cases so far, leading to lockdowns imposed in the city, and state borders closed — days before Christmas.


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Qantas aircraft parked at Sydney airport in April 2020

Checks on Sydney airport’s website shows that three of Australia’s largest carriers — Qantas, Jetstar, as well as Virgin Australia — cancelled at least 49 flights in total, as at 21 December evening local time.

These include flights to Melbourne — one of the country’s major domestic trunk routes — as well as to Perth, Gold Coast and Adelaide.

There are a similar number of flights cancelled on 22 December, according to Sydney airport’s flight schedules.

Qantas says it and low-cost unit Jetstar have seen “large numbers of customers cancelling their bookings” for Sydney-Melbourne and other domestic routes from 21 December.

“A number of flights will be cancelled as a result. We’ll be contacting customers directly impacted by any flight changes,” the carrier adds.

The latest surge in cases comes as state borders within Australia are gradually reopening, following months of lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

It also threatens to derail domestic air travel efforts by Australian carriers, which in recent weeks have raised capacity on domestic networks, as the country largely kept the outbreak under control.

The new cluster is also casting a shadow over an imminent trans-Tasman travel bubble arrangement between Australia and New Zealand.

Just days before the sudden spike in cases, New Zealand and Australia agreed in-principle to establish a travel in the first quarter of 2021, which will allow for general travel without the need for quarantine.

A New Zealand government spokesperson on 21 December was quoted as saying that it was monitoring the situation in Sydney “closely”, but stressed that it is premature to make any decisions on the impending travel bubble arrangements.