Qantas Group has announced more detail on preparations for restarting its international flights, with plans linked to the vaccine rollout in Australia and key overseas markets.
On current projections, Australia is expected to reach the National Cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80 percent in December, which would trigger the gradual reopening of international borders, the group said.
Similarly, key markets such as the UK, North America and parts of Asia have high and increasing levels of vaccination.
“This makes them highly likely to be classed as low-risk countries for vaccinated travellers to visit and return from under reduced quarantine requirements, pending decisions by the Australian Government and entry policies of other countries,” Qantas said in a statement.
Airline must make ‘reasonable assumptions’
“This creates a range of potential travel options that Qantas and Jetstar are now preparing for. While Covid has shown that circumstances can change unexpectedly, the long lead times for international readiness means the group needs to make some reasonable assumptions based on the latest data to make sure it can offer flights to customers as soon as they become feasible.”
Flights to destinations that still have low vaccine rates and high levels of Covid infection are being pushed out from December 2021 until April 2022.
These destinations include Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg.
“Levels of travel demand – and therefore, capacity levels – will hinge largely on government decisions on alternative requirements to mandatory hotel isolation for fully vaccinated travellers,” Qantas said.
Among the key points mentioned are that flights between Australia and New Zealand will be on sale for travel from mid-December 2021 on the assumption some or all parts of the two-way bubble will restart.
Big demand for London-Aussie long-haul flight
Qantas’ ability to fly non-stop between Australia and London is expected to be in even higher demand post-Covid.
The airline is thus investigating using Darwin as a transit point. The NT capital has been Qantas’ main entry for repatriation flights and may be an alternative (or in addition) to its existing Perth hub, given conservative border policies in Western Australia.
Outlining the restart assumptions as part of the national carrier’s full year results, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said: “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 percent trigger agreed by National Cabinet by the end of the year, we need to plan ahead for what is a complex restart process.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen, including training for our people and carefully bringing aircraft back into service. We’re also working to integrate the IATA travel pass into our systems to help our customers prove their vaccine status and cross borders.