Qantas and Jetstar are cutting back flights to Asia and regional destinations for the next three months as demand declines amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Flights to China, Hong Kong and Singapore will be affected. The overall reduction of around 16% will last “until at least the end of May”, says Qantas.
The Australian airline had been planning to suspend its Sydney-Shanghai route only until the end of March, but will now further defer resumption of the service.
On the Melbourne-Singapore route, capacity will be reduced by around 250 seats per flight as the airline deploys Boeing 787s to replace Airbus A380s.
Frequencies to Hong Kong will be cut from four times per day to 16 times per week, by means of halving the Sydney flights to daily while scaling the Brisbane service down from daily to four times per week and the Melbourne one from daily to five times per week.
Flights between Australia and New Zealand will be reduced 6%, affecting the Sydney and Melbourne routes from Auckland as well as Brisbane-Christchurch.
Jetstar will meanwhile cut up to two flights per week from its routes from Cairns to Tokyo Narita and Osaka and from Gold Coast to Narita. Flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Phuket will also be affected.
Jetstar Asia, Jetstar Japan and Jetstar Pacific have all suspended flights to China and are cutting flights to other parts of Asia, but Singapore-based Jetstar Asia appears to be the most affected, with a capacity cut of some 15%.
The redeployment of an A320 by Jetstar is also on the cards. It is looking to transfer the narrowbody to QantasLink for use in Western Australia, to meet rising demand from the resources sector. However, it is unclear if the aircraft will come from the Australian airline or one of its Asian affiliates.
To better match demand, Qantas and Jetstar will also cut its total domestic capacity by 2.3% in the second half of its financial year, which ends 30 June.
The cancellations are mainly focused on off-peak flights between major Australian state capital cities, notes Qantas.
Its plans to scale back services were disclosed as it announced its first-half results. Underlying profit before tax came in flat at A$771 million ($512 million), as higher revenues helped to offset external headwinds. Group revenue rose 3% to A$9.46 billion, and statutory net profit declined 4% to A$445 million.
In recent days, Singapore Airlines has announced that it is cutting flights to parts of Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and the USA for the next three months. The month of May has the highest number of cancellations across all regions.