Qantas Is Unlikely to Run Any International Flights Until at Least July 2021
But the airline has started ramping up domestic flights and expects domestic travel to be back to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2022.
When the Australian Government introduced an indefinite ban on all overseas travel in late March, Qantas and Jetstar suspended all scheduled international flights and temporarily stood down two-thirds of its staff. Today, Thursday, June 25, the airline has revealed that overseas flights will not takeoff again until at least July 2021.
At a press conference this morning, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced 6000 job cuts across all parts of the business and the continued standing down of 15,000 employees until flights return — which, for international flights, won't be for a while.
Referencing a report released earlier in the year by an airline industry expert, Joyce said that it is expected to take three years for international travel to return to 2019 levels. "We think international will take a long time," Joyce said. "There'll be nothing this next financial year, July next year we may start seeing some international services and that will only get us to 50 percent. The following year, only two-thirds of the pre-COVID international schedule."
The likelihood of international travel not returning for Australians until at least 2021 isn't new, news, though. Earlier this month, Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said as much, telling the National Press Club, "international border restrictions are likely to be there for some time to come" — and that "keeping those border restrictions largely in place is a price we're going to have to pay to keep COVID under control".
The good news is that, as has come up frequently over the past few months, implementing a 'travel bubble' with New Zealand — aka reinstating international travel just between the two countries before Australia's international border reopens to all nations worldwide — is still under consideration according to Birmingham. Whether Qantas and Jetstar will run flights across the ditch if a travel bubble is allowed before July 2021 is currently unknown.
The airlines will, however, definitely still be running domestic flights — and expect domestic travel to be back to 100 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels by 2022. "We're very optimistic about domestic," Joyce said at the press conference. "The domestic market will get back to maybe 70 percent of pre-COVID levels in the next year and the following year to 100 percent."
The airlines have started ramping up domestic flights again and even held a big sale, with one-way flights as cheap as $19, last week.
It's worth noting, of course, that many of Australia's state borders are still closed. Queensland is working towards reopening to visitors from other states on July 10, although that hasn't been officially confirmed as yet, while the Northern Territory announced it'll reopen on July 17 — and South Australia is slated to do the same on July 20.
While Victoria, NSW and the ACT currently have open borders, numerous state health ministers — including NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard today — have encouraged their residents to avoid travel to Victoria, especially to Melbourne's COVID hotspots, as the state has seen a recent uptick in new cases, with 33 recorded in the last 24 hours.
Qantas and Jetstar's 6000 job cuts are part of post-COVID-19 recovery plan for the airlines, which also includes the retiring of the remaining 747s six months early and the grounding of 100 aircraft for up to 12 months.
To find out more about the status of COVID-19 in Australia and how to protect yourself, head to the Australian Government Department of Health's website.