Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has reiterated the airline’s vision to resume international flights from Australia (beyond New Zealand) remains steadfast for late October 2021.
His calls follow recent suggestions by Health Minister Greg Hunt that overseas travel, both outbound and inbound, may not recommence until 2024 due to a slower than expected vaccination deployment.
In a business update today [15 April 2021], Joyce said Australia’s vaccination program is “absolutely key” for the resumption of flights abroad.
“While there have clearly been some speedbumps with the vaccine rollout, we are planning for international flights to resume in late October. We remain in regular dialogue with the Government,” Joyce remarked.
In preparation, Qantas Group is reactivating aircraft and training employees in anticipation of the resumption.
“The Group maintains flexibility to bring forward, push back or stagger the resumption of our international flights to align with any updates to the Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout timeline or approach to international travel,” the company said.
That flexibility covers fee-free flight date changes on international bookings with Qantas to provide customers with confidence.
On the domestic front, Joyce said the company has witnessed “extremely strong leisure demand”, aided by the Federal Government’s half-price fare offer, along with the return of corporate and SME travel – now at about 65% of pre-COVID levels, and on the up.
Over one-quarter of a million airfares were sold in the first two weeks of the half-price fare promotion, Joyce said.
“Indirectly, we saw a big spike in travel demand before the fares even went on sale because the announcement itself gave people confidence, which is something that had been missing for months,” Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO.
That response has seen Qantas Group revise its estimates on reaching 80% of its pre-COVID domestic capacity for the fourth quarter of FY21 to beyond 90%, assuming there are no “significant” border closures.
To assist with the increased demand, Qantas Group will deploy six Airbus A320s on loan from offshoot Jetstar Japan to its domestic leisure routes operated by Jetstar.
Further, up to five of Jetstar’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft primarily used for international routes, will be reassigned to the domestic market from mid-2021 until the restart of overseas flights. The 787-8s will operate between Melbourne/Sydney-Gold Coast, as well as Melbourne/Sydney-Cairns.
On the international side of the business, namely the TransTasman bubble with New Zealand, the Group reported “tens of thousands of bookings” were made across Qantas and Jetstar in the first few days.
Bookings for the first few weeks of the bubble’s launch (which begins on Monday 19 April 2021) are stronger out of Australia than New Zealand. From late-May, Qantas has introduced additional flights to cater for expected demand over the ski season.
“The two-way bubble with New Zealand is great news for the tourism sector as a whole. It means we can bring other parts of our business out of hibernation, like our aircraft and First lounges in Australia,” Joyce said.
“The increased domestic flying and resumption of flights across the Tasman are also helping get more of our people back to work,” he added.
While delivering a smorgasbord of positive news, Joyce did however highlight that it was “important to keep this uptick in perspective.”
“We are still facing a massive financial loss this year, which will be the second one in a row. We’ve lost more than $11 billion in revenue since the pandemic started and that number will keep growing until international travel recovers.”
“We’ve used debt and shareholder equity to get through to this point, and our people have had the benefit of direct government support, which continues for those still stood down due to international border closures.”
“As the recent lockdown in Brisbane showed, airlines and many other sectors remain vulnerable to snap travel restrictions until Australia’s vaccination rollout is complete.”
Accor lounge partnership
In further news, Qantas and Accor also confirmed a new seven-year extension of the hospitality company’s management of Qantas’ lounges in Australian and abroad. The new agreement builds on the duo’s 14-year arrangement.
On the topic of Lounges, Qantas will reopen its international First lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, along with its Premium Lounge in Brisbane, from Monday 19 April, coinciding with the relaunch for flights to New Zealand.
Platinum One, Platinum and Gold frequent flyers along with Business customers and Qantas Club members flying on the Tasman will be invited to visit these two First lounges until the airline’s other international lounges reopen.
Lead image: Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner | Source: Qantas