SYDNEY, AAP – Australia’s flagship carrier feels like it’s starting to turn the corner after a year being battered by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qantas expects to report underlying earnings of between $400 million and $450 million in this financial year.

As well, net debt has peaked and starting to decline signalling the airline on the way to repairing its balance sheet.

“We have a long way still to go in this recovery but it does feel like we’re slowly starting to turn the corner,” CEO Alan Joyce said on Thursday.

“We’ve adjusted our expectations for when international borders will start opening based on the government’s new timeline.

“But our fundamental assumption remains the same – that once the national vaccine rollout is effectively complete, Australia can and should open up.”

The pandemic has taken its toll on Qantas, with the airline forecasting a total revenue lose of $16 billion by the end of fiscal 2021.

Mr Joyce said Australia should apply the “same intensity” to the vaccine rollout as did to lockdowns and restrictions.

“Because only then will we have the confidence to open up.”

The federal government has warned international travel and border restrictions will remain in place for “some time”, arguing Australia must play it safe.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised by business leaders, health officials and some colleagues for not giving certainty on when the country can reopen.

The budget papers assume a timeframe of a mid-2022 deadline, but there’s no guarantees and it could extend well into 2023.