Aviation

Qantas CEO says vaccines could restart international travel before “bubbles” eventuate

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce reckons vaccines could very much kick-start international travel before “travel bubbles” are established.

While delivering a trading update to investors, Joyce doubled down on Qantas’ mandatory vaccine stance, but said proof of vaccine would most likely not be needed for travel to New Zealand, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The national carrier has been facing boycott threats since Joyce revealed passengers will need proof of COVID-19 vaccination to travel internationally, once the vaccine is available in Australia.

“Australia’s success at virtually eliminating COVID means we’ll need a vaccine for international travel to restart properly,” Joyce said, according to SMH.

“We have a duty of care to our people and to our passengers, and once a safe and effective vaccine becomes readily available, it will be a requirement.”

Despite the optimism surrounding the progress of COVID-19 vaccines, the carrier said in its market update it predicts international flying will still be at a standstill until at least July 2021, and even then it will take years for the industry to recover.

However, Joyce said the vaccine might even arrive before “travel bubbles” between low-risk countries can be established.

“The potential for vaccines to be rolled out maybe faster than the bubbles happening is probably real at this stage,” Joyce said.

On Thursday, Pfizer announced its candidate for the COVID-19 vaccine could be rolled out in the UK as early as next week.

However, Australia’s Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said it probably won’t be rolled out in Australia until at least March next year.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce

The news came as the airline hit back at the Transport Workers Union’s (TWU’s) claims about the airline’s financial state and its decision to outsource more than 2,000 groundworker jobs.

According to the airline, TWU has claimed Qantas will break even by Christmas and be back to profit next year.

“This is not correct,” the airline said, citing Alan Joyce’s market update.

“We’re announcing today that we expect to be close to break-even at the underlying EBITDA level for the first half. To be clear on what this means – we’re not back in the black. Far from it. We will post a significant loss this year,” Joyce said.

Qantas said the TWU’s claim that its in-house union bid to prevent the outsourcing of groundworker jobs was competitive was also incorrect.

“In fact, it didn’t meet any of the objectives that we had set as part of the process. Their bid was, by their own admission, ‘theoretical’ with no roadmap of how projected cost savings would be achieved,” the airline said in a statement.

Qantas also refuted the union’s claims that it had violated the intent of the JobKeeper scheme and abused taxpayers money.

“We have fully complied with the spirit and purpose of JobKeeper – including recognising when jobs aren’t coming back and making those jobs redundant,” the airline said.

“The rest of the government support was used to maintain critical domestic and international air services which, in turn, generated paid work for our people.

“The TWU’s demand that Qantas pay back government support such as JobKeeper would require us to claw it back from their members – which makes no sense.

“As at late October 2020, the net benefit of government assistance to Qantas was $17 million.”

However, in September Qantas lost its legal stoush with TWU over its misuse of the JobKeeper scheme, meaning its workers are likely to receive thousands in unpaid wages.

To read all of the TWU’s claims the airline said it has debunked, go HERE.


Featured image source: iStock/dmfoss

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