SYDNEY, AAP – With Australia’s vaccination rollout gaining pace, Qantas says it is time to prepare for a return to some overseas destinations by the end of the year.
The national carrier expects to resume flights to some low-risk destinations with high vaccination rates from mid-December. These include Singapore, Japan, the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand.
Flights to cities with lower vaccination rates – such as Bali, Jakarta, Manila and Johannesburg, will only restart from April 2022.
“I know the prospect of flying overseas might feel a long way off – especially with NSW and Victoria in lockdown,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said on Thursday.
“But the current pace of the vaccine rollout means all Australian states are on track to reach the 80 per cent target by December – which is the trigger for starting to carefully open to some parts of the world.”
Australia is projected to reach the National Cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80 per cent in December 2021, which will prompt the gradual reopening of international borders.
The issue of quarantine for fully-vaccinated travellers visiting or returning to Australia still weighs on the plans, with the government yet to decide on the requirements.
Qantas says demand levels will be quite low if a 14-day hotel quarantine is mandated. A shorter period with additional testing and the option to isolate at home will see a lot more people travel.
It is already working to integrate the ‘international travel pass’ – which details the vaccination record of passengers – into its system by October.
For the medium term, Qantas is bringing five A380s – its largest passenger aircraft – back into service ahead of schedule from mid-2022. They will initially fly on the Sydney to Los Angeles route, followed by Sydney-London from November 2022.
The airline will also take delivery of three Boeing 787-9s and three Airbus A321neo LR aircraft from early 2022/23 to operate additional flights as demand increases.
Meanwhile, Qantas said it is considering shifting its non-stop Australia-London flights to Darwin from the existing Perth hub because of “conservative border policies in Western Australia”.
WA Premier Mark McGowan, who has kept borders shut with most other states to prevent virus cases leaking, didn’t seem pleased with the option.
“As a state, we funded the Perth to London flights, we put in place $15 million worth of improvement at the terminal,” he said.
“They need to show some understanding and perhaps some gratitude for what the state government has done.”