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Australia had 114 private jet arrivals in the past year – and 94 of those came from the US.
Getty Images/John White Photos

Despite closed borders and hardly any commercial flights, wealthy Americans have been flocking to Australia during the pandemic on private jets, Caitlin Fitzsimmons reported for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Of the 114 private jet arrivals to Australia between April 2020 and May 2021, roughly 83% came from the US, per the Herald, citing data from Cirium, an aviation analytics company. Insider reviewed a copy of the data.

Meanwhile, Australia's borders have been closed to foreigners since March 2020 unless they're granted an exemption to visit or they're coming from New Zealand as part of the travel bubble. Australians also need an exemption to leave the country. Commercial international flights to and from Australia cratered by 98% between March 2020 and March 2021, according to data from Australia's transport and infrastructure department. And as of May 1, more than 35,000 Australians were still stuck abroad awaiting permission to come home.

bondi beach australia
Bondi Beach in Australia.
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A Hollywood boom

While private jet passengers are often business executives, some of those who have been flying private to Australia could be Hollywood stars in the country to film projects. Zac Efron put his Los Angeles home on the market, moved to Australia's Byron Bay during the pandemic, and has been filming the thriller "Gold" as well as his docuseries "Down to Earth." Natalie Portman arrived in Sydney in September with her family to start filming the upcoming Marvel movie "Thor: Love and Thunder." Christian Bale is also in Australia to film the "Thor" movie.

And last week, "Thor: Love and Thunder" director Taika Waititi was spotted getting cozy in Sydney with his rumored girlfriend Rita Ora and "Thor" star Tessa Thompson.

"Australia is definitely a very attractive destination and also what we're finding is that more and more people from a myriad of backgrounds who are coming to Australia for their actual job and are now settling down and bringing their families," Concierge Doctors founder Zac Turner, who offers medical services for private quarantine in Australia, told the Herald.

The laid-back beach town of Byron Bay has been a particular magnet for Hollywood A-listers, from Efron to Melissa McCarthy. Last month, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, star of "Thor: Love and Thunder," and his wife threw a star-studded party at their Byron Bay home where the guest list included Matt Damon and Chris' brother Liam Hemsworth. It came after the couple's '80s party in March, which Idris Elba, and again Damon and Liam Hemsworth attended.

A post shared by Chris Hemsworth (@chrishemsworth)

It's unclear how the number of private jet arrivals to Australia from the US in the past year compares to prior years. A spokesperson for Cirium told Insider that the company could not provide data from 2019 because its data collection had improved since then.

Apart from the US arrivals, five of the private flights arrived from New Zealand, five from Indonesia, and the rest came from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore, according to Cirium's data.

Some Americans who managed to enter Australia during the pandemic may have seen it as a safe haven from COVID-19. Apart from relatively small outbreaks, Australia has mostly kept the coronavirus at bay thanks to border closures and strict lockdowns. The country of more than 23 million people has recorded a total of 30,124 cases and 910 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Now, however, life is returning to normalcy in the US as more than half of Americans are fully vaccinated and COVID-19 cases continue to drop. Still, the US is reporting an average of more than 17,000 new cases a day. Australia has reported an average of 12 new cases in the past week.

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