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The Morrison government is extending support for the domestic aviation industry to ensure certainty as more Australians prepare for family reunions during the busy Christmas and summer holiday period.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said with state borders now reopening, the government wants to ensure air operators have all the support they need.

“The government is focused on keeping Australians connected and facilitating freight movements as aviation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr McCormack, who is also transport minister, said on Monday.

The government is extending its domestic aviation network support program for a further eight weeks until March 28, 2021, part of more than $1.2 billion of assistance that has been made available during the pandemic.

It is also extending a 50 per cent waiver of domestic air services charges for regular public transport and aero-medical flights from January 1 to March 31, that will help operators manage costs as flights increase.

Mr McCormack said the aviation industry had been hit first and hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of domestic passengers fell from 5.35 million in January to just 344,100 in April and remained low as borders were closed.

The government has also set up an expert panel to consult with the aviation sector to ensure Australia continues to have a “safe, secure and efficient industry” into the future.

“Managing the challenges to aviation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic will require industry, regulators, governments and the community to work together,” Mr McCormack said.