The Qantas Group this week provided 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 National Cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80 per cent in December 2021, which would trigger the gradual reopening of international borders.
Similarly, key markets like the UK, North America and parts of Asia have high and increasing levels of vaccination, according to government data. 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.
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 will now be pushed out from December 2021 until April 2022 – including 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.
Assuming current projections hold and the 80 per cent vaccine threshold is met in December, Qantas and Jetstar plan to trigger a gradual restart as outlined below. If those assumptions change or dates move, the restart plans will adjust accordingly according to Qantas.
Qantas Group International Restart Plans
In total, 10 of Qantas’ A380s with upgraded interiors are expected to return to service by early 2024, with timing dependent on how quickly the market recovers. Two A380s will be retired.
Readiness for international travel to restart is supported by ongoing repatriation and charter flights using A330s and 787s, as well as specific funding from the Australian Government for crew training and engineering work to return idle aircraft to service.
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 per cent 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.
“We can adjust our plans if the circumstances change, which we’ve already had to do several times during this pandemic. Some people might say we’re being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we’re ready,” added Mr Joyce.
Qantas has recently extended its Fly Flexible policy, offering customers who book international flights before 28 February 2022 with unlimited ‘fee free’ date changes when travelling before 31 December 2022. (A fare difference may apply).
Qantas has also extended credit vouchers for bookings made on or before 30 September 2021 to enable travel until 31 December 2023. Jetstar customers issued with a voucher due to COVID-19 disruptions are able to use their voucher to book flights until at least 31 December 2022, for flights up to the end of 2023.
International flights remain subject to Government and Regulatory approval.
[Source: Qantas Group]