The federal government is considering funding Qantas and Virgin Australia to keep domestic flights operating during the coronavirus pandemic.
9News understands the government is close to signing off a package worth tens of millions of dollars to keep both airlines operating and their fares affordable.
9News understands Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has been locked in talks with the airline chiefs to try and reach an agreement.
The funding would be in addition to the $1 billion the federal government has already committed to the local airline industry.
Virgin Australia suspended all of its domestic flights apart from a single daily route last Thursday as the airline battles with strangle coronavirus measures.
A Virgin Australia spokesperson said the airline would only operate a commercial Sydney to Melbourne service six days a week from Good Friday until June 15.
It would provide cargo transport both locally and overseas and operate charter flights, including bringing home Australians stranded overseas.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week said the government is working with Virgin and Qantas on chartered rescue flights to bring Australians wishing to return from overseas home.
As well as the repatriation flights, many returned Australian travellers who have been locked away in 14-day hotel mandatory isolation are now struggling to return to their home states due to a lack of domestic flights.
“We had a connecting flight originally to go to Brisbane, we weren’t allowed to take it,” traveller Sinclair Bryant told 9News.
“We’ve booked two flights since – both cancelled.”
Ms Bryant, 21, said she was too you to hire a car but a woman in a Facebook group she made for the hotel-confined returnees had offered to drive them.
Ms Bryant has already done two weeks quarantine in Berlin and two in Sydney and faces the possibility of two more when she gets to Queensland.
Last month Qantas announced it would stand down the majority of its 30,000 staff until the end of May.
All scheduled Qantas and Jetstar international flights will also be suspended from the end of this month following the government’s level four travel ban.
Virgin Australia also stood down about 8000 of its 10,000 workers until at least the end of May and further slashed domestic flight capacity in the wake of coronavirus border restrictions.