Together with high vaccine levels in key markets like the UK, North America and parts of Asia, and with Australia finally ramping up vaccinations at home, Qantas Group have outlined a hopeful strategy to restart international flights as early as December 2021.
With current projections, Australia is expected to reach National Cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80 per cent by December 2021, which would trigger the gradual reopening of international borders. The Group acknowledges that COVID can still cause circumstances to change unexpectedly, but both Qantas and Jetstar are now planning to be operationally ready by the end of the year.
The announcement comes after Qantas unveiled their vaccine rewards campaign earlier this week, which entitles fully vaccinated Australian-based Frequent Flyers to claim Qantas points, status credits or discount vouchers and automatically go into a mega prize draw with a chance to win a year’s worth of flights, accommodation, and fuel.
The strategy outlined by Qantas Group includes the anticipated return of international flights to COVID-safe destinations, potentially Singapore, the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and Fiji, as early as mid-December. It’s also assumed that the New Zealand x Australia bubble will restart again around the same time.
Qantas are also investigating the potential to use Darwin as a transit point to London in addition to, or as an alternative to Perth, allowing Qantas to ramp up non-stop flights between Australia and the UK.
Flights to destinations with low vaccine rates and high levels of infection will still be restricted for a while longer, with locations including Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg projected to be out of bounds for Australians until at least April 2022.
The Group are also planning to return five A390s to service ahead of schedule, for flights between Sydney and LA from July 2022 and between Sydney and London (via Singapore) from November 2022. Extending the range of their A330-200 aircrafts will also allow Qantas to operate some trans-Pacific routes including Brisbane – Los Angeles and Brisbane – San Francisco.
The anticipated return of Hong Kong flights is being planned for February 2022, with the rest of the Qantas and Jetstar international network planned to progressively increase from April 2022.
The idea of travelling internationally again will be a dream-come-true for many Australians, and the day can’t come soon enough for Qantas either. The Group posted a significant loss from a full financial year in the pandemic this week, citing a $12 billion revenue impact from the COVID-19 crisis in FY21, an underlying loss before tax of $1.83 billion and a statutory loss before tax of $2.35 billion.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement, “The prospect of flying overseas might feel a long way off, especially with New South Wales and Victoria in lockdown, but the current pace of the vaccine rollout means we should have a lot more freedom in a few months’ time.
“It’s obviously up to government exactly how and when our international borders re-open, but with Australia on track to meet the 80 per cent trigger agreed by National Cabinet by the end of the year, we need to plan ahead for what is a complex restart process.”