Australian flag carrier Qantas doesn’t now plan to restart regularly scheduled international flights until the end of October 2021 at the earliest, the airline confirmed on Thursday. The new date is a four-month delay on Qantas’ previous plan to resume international service to destinations such as London and Los Angeles as of July 1, 2021.
Last month, Qantas opened ticket sales for international flights beginning July 1 but the decision drew a strong rebuke from the Australian government who said it was the government’s decision alone as to when the country’s borders would be reopened to tourists.
Qantas defended the decision to start selling tickets, saying it anticipated that July could be the earliest date that Australia might ease some of the toughest COVID-19 related travel restrictions in the world. The four-month pushback is an acknowledgement that restarting international flights by July is not even remotely conceivable.
Instead, Qantas is pinning its hopes on border restrictions being lifted once a mass vaccination campaign has reached every eligible adult across Australia. The programme has only just got underway but Qantas is hopeful that everyone will have been offered a jab by October.
As of October 31, Qantas says it hopes to be able to resume service to 22 of its 25 pre-pandemic international destinations. Service to New York, Santiago and Osaka, however, will not start on October 31 and Qantas wasn’t able to say when it might resume flights to these three destinations.
In a statement, Qantas did, however, say that it remained “committed to flying” to those destinations.
Capacity will remain significantly down on pre-COVID levels and Qantas confirmed that its giant Airbus A380’s would likely remain in longterm storage until the end fo June 2023. Airline chief executive Alan Joyce believes there’s a future for the A380 but the road to recovery is set to stretch into 2024 with demand remaining suppressed for several more years.
“The COVID vaccine rollout in Australia will take time, but the fact it’s underway gives us more certainty,” Joyce commented on Thursday.
“More certainty that domestic borders can stay open because frontline and quarantine workers will be vaccinated in a matter of weeks. And more certainty that international borders can open when the nationwide rollout is effectively complete by the end of October.”
Joyce has committed to making proof of vaccination mandatory for passengers wishing to travel on the airline’s international services and Qantas is trialling digital health passports to verify vaccination status.
Qantas remains hopeful that flights between Australia and New Zealand will witness a “significant” increase from July 1, while the airline says it would be able to quickly add capacity to any ‘travel bubbles’ that might pop up in the meantime.
Talks have been held with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan but the only existing travel bubble remains with New Zealand. That bubble has been sporadically burst as outbreak clusters crop up.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.