Qantas expects to gradually resume regular international passenger flights by the end of October — about four months later than it had previously projected.
The Australian carrier states that the new timeline “aligns with the expected timeframe for Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout to be effectively complete”.
An innoculation drive is underway in Australia, as the country’s international borders still remain closed off to international travellers to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter under current restrictions.
From 31 October, Qantas will recommence flights to nearly all of its 25 international points, including Singapore, London, Los Angeles, as well as Johannesburg.
Three cities — Osaka, New York and Santiago — will not see service resumption immediately, but Qantas says it “remains committed” to restarting service to these cities.
The carrier adds that capacity on its international flights will be lower than pre-pandemic levels, but did not elaborate.
It states: “Frequencies and aircraft type deployed on each route [are] in line with the projected recovery of international flying. International capacity is not expected to fully recover until 2024.”
Meanwhile, low-cost unit Jetstar will resume flights to all 13 international destinations from 31 October, says Qantas.
Both carriers also expect a “significant increase” in Trans-Tasman flights from 1 July.
Our network has evolved significantly through COVID-19. We’re hopeful domestic border closures will be a thing of the past and that we can ramp up flying as demand returns. International flights are now scheduled to resume from late October 2021. pic.twitter.com/4mZQQk2xtF— Qantas (@Qantas) February 25, 2021
The latest forecast is the second adjustment in the projected resumption of international flights. Qantas had previously delayed relaunching flights to Asia — from March to July — amid uncertainty over recovery prospects.
The Oneworld carrier earned the rebuke of the Australian government in January, when it began ticket sales to international destinations for travel from July.
In a tersely-worded statement criticising the airline’s move, deputy prime minister Michael McCormack, who is also minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development, said international borders will be opened “when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians”.
Australian officials have indicated in mid-January that it was unlikely international borders would reopen in 2021, even while the vaccination drive gets underway.