Qantas hopes to be flying overseas again by the Australian spring.
Australia's 'flying kangaroo' will be back in the air by October, according to Qantas boss Alan Joyce, who has announced that both Qantas and Jetstar will be restarting regular international passenger flights from October 31.
This is a delay of several months on the formerly anticipated July timeframe. The new date coincides with the expected completion of Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination programme roll-out.
However, capacity is expected to be reduced compared with pre-Covid levels and international flights not expected to fully recover until 2024.
Qantas plans to resume flights to 22 of its 25 pre-Covid destinations, including Los Angeles, London, Singapore and Johannesburg. Flights to New York, Santiago and Osaka will not restart immediately, although Qantas says it remains committed to these destinations.
Jestar will restart flights to all 13 of its international destinations but with “adjusted frequency”.
The airline says it is planning for significantly increased frequency to New Zealand for both Qantas and Jetstar from July 1.
“We’re in close consultation with the government,” Joyce told international media. “And if things change, so will our dates. But with the vaccine rollout already underway, we’re on the right track.”
He admitted in an interview with Bloomberg that resumption of travel was ultimately “the government’s call”, but anticipated the carrier would be getting back to 40% of international capacity (outside of New Zealand) for 2022.
Australia’s vaccination programme began this week and the government expects to have made it available to all adults by October.
Qantas is also assessing the use of digital health pass apps to support the safe return of international travel. Both the CommonPass and the IATA Travel Pass smartphone apps are currently being trialled on the airline’s international repatriation flights.
Qantas has also updated its Fly Flexible policy to apply to all international flights, rather than just trans-Tasman. This means customers will be able to make unlimited free date-changes up to a full year in advance on overseas flights booked from today until at least the end of April 2021.
The carrier has also extended credit vouchers to enable travel until December 31, 2023, on both domestic and international flights.