Qantas will launch the Federal Government’s rescue mission for Australians stranded in the quarantined Chinese city of Wuhan tomorrow.
Sources in Canberra say the Boeing 747-400, carrying the registration VH-OEF, is being readied in Sydney with an all-volunteer crew for the flight.
It will fly as Flt QF6031 at 12.40pm Sydney time to Hong Kong, arriving there at 7pm local time before flying a domestic leg to Wuhan, with a scheduled landing time of 11.30pm.
The 747 will take off as Flt QF6032 at 2.30am and fly direct to Darwin arriving, at 10am on Monday.
It is understood that the Royal Australian Air Force will meet the plane on the tarmac in Darwin for a passenger transfer to two C-17 transports for the flight to Christmas Island.
While the 747 can land at Christmas Island the runway is not grooved and at this time of the year is subject to heavy rain.
Separately, Qantas has announced that it will suspend its two direct services to mainland China — Sydney-Beijing and Sydney-Shanghai — from February 9 until March 29.
The move follows entry restrictions imposed by countries including Singapore and the US, which impact the movement of crew who work across the Qantas International network.
These entry restrictions pose significant logistical challenges for rostering crew to operate mainland China services, leading to the need to temporarily suspend these flights.
The Beijing service was already due to end on February 23 for commercial reasons.
The Hong Kong services will continue unchanged as it is currently exempt from travel restrictions.
Singapore from Sunday will stop allowing entry or transit to any people who have visited mainland China in the past fortnight.
The US is following a similar policy, but will grant entry to the immediate family of American citizens and permanent residents.
Qantas said February 9 was selected as a balance between high passenger demand in both directions and various travel restrictions.
“The suspension may be brought forward if demand levels or other factors change,” the airline said on Saturday.
“The date for flights to resume will also be regularly reviewed based on the circumstances.”
Customers booked to fly from February 9 to March 29 will be contacted by Qantas to discuss options. Codeshare flights with Chinese airlines will not be changed.
Qantas said it was liaising closely with the Federal Government on the impact on citizens currently in mainland China, and continued to take advice from the World Health Organisation and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer on coronavirus.
The Transport Workers Union welcomed the move and called for all incoming flights from China to be suspended.
“This issue is getting more serious by the hour and it requires a calm but definite response,” national secretary Michael Kaine said.