The Qantas Group has updated its flying schedule in response to reopening updates by Victoria and New South Wales, including a noticeable snub to Western Australia.
Amongst a swathe of increased flights, the airline noted it would stand by its threat to reroute its Perth-London service until at least April 2022 due to WA’s latest “border settings and assumptions”.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline will replace its Melbourne-Perth-London service with either Darwin or Singapore, depending on conversations with the Northern Territory government in the coming weeks.
Qantas has also put a freeze on increasing flights between WA and Victoria/NSW until 1 February 2022, while bringing forward the date for travel between Victoria and NSW from 1 December to 5 November 2021, based on Victoria’s reopening plan.
Just days before announcing the resumption of several international routes on 18 December, Joyce said the airline was prepared to offer international flights in Sydney and Melbourne first, leaving other states behind if they don’t reopen with the rest of the country.
Perth was noticeably absent from the initial spate of international flights announced by the carrier, which included services from NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
Both WA and Queensland have been facing scrutiny from the federal government after both state governments signalled they may not open their borders once Australia reaches its 80 per cent vaccination target.
On Sunday, Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said despite the federal government’s insistence that states “stick to the plan”, the National Cabinet’s COVID-19 response says nothing about state border’s reopening once that target is reached.
Joyce said Qantas is ready to adjust its schedules in response to changes by states as various restrictions ease in the weeks ahead.
“Based on our discussions with Western Australia, we know their borders won’t be open to NSW and Victoria until early next year, so we’ve sadly had to cancel the flying we had planned on those routes in the lead-up to Christmas,” Joyce said.
In good news, the national carrier promised to “significantly” increase regional flights within NSW from 25 October to around 40 per cent pre-COVID levels in line with the state’s updated reopening plan.
Internationally, flights are still on track to gradually restart from 18 December onwards, when Australia is expected to have reached the National Cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80 per cent.
“People are clearly keen to travel. We saw a 175 per cent spike in web searches in the week after we announced our plans, and we’ve seen strong bookings for December and January for our flights to London, Los Angeles and Singapore in particular,” Joyce said.
“The key factor in determining the ongoing demand level for international flying will be what the quarantine arrangements are for Australians when they return.
“The seven-day home quarantine trial in NSW is a great step forward, and we’re hoping the system evolves quickly for vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries to not have to quarantine on arrival, particularly given Australia itself is on track to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
“The reason we’re putting a lot of sale fares in the market as more domestic destinations open up is to help fast-track the recovery by stimulating demand and getting our people back to work sooner.
“Jetstar sold thousands of $20 fares from Melbourne to Sydney, Byron Bay and Newcastle within hours of going on sale this week. This is good news for the tourism industry, which has taken such a huge hit throughout the crisis.”
“Get ready to see some emotional reunions at airports from late October onwards.”
Speaking of $20 fares, Jetstar has launched a $22 sale for 22,000 seats for travel in 2022, as well as 500,000 sale fares available from October onwards on all domestic routes.
The $22 seats will be available from midday today across Jetstar’s 59 domestic routes, including Melbourne to Cairns, Sydney to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Hobart to Brisbane and Adelaide to the Sunshine Coast for travel next year.
Last week, Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said Australians will be allowed to travel overseas by December “at the latest” and urged states to “stick to the plan”.