Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce says the company is still planning to resume international flights in late October despite some “speedbumps” in Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
In an update issued yesterday, Qantas confirmed that its preparations for the reopening of international borders and the resumption of international flights from 31 October beyond those between Australia and New Zealand are continuing, including reactivating aircraft and training employees.
The airline group noted that it maintains flexibility to bring forward, push back or stagger the resumption of international flights to align with any updates to the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout timeline or approach to international travel.
Joyce said the government’s vaccination program was “absolutely key” to restarting international flights in and out of Australia.
“While there have clearly been some speedbumps with the vaccine rollout, we are still planning for international flights to resume in late October. We remain in regular dialogue with the government,” he said.
Joyce’s comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded the government could no longer commit to its target of offering all Aussies their first vaccine dose by October this year, due to concerns over rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Qantas also noted in its update yesterday that growing domestic demand and the opening of a two-way trans-Tasman travel bubble are helping keep the group’s recovery on track and allowing more parts of the business to be brought out of hibernation.
All Qantas and Jetstar domestic crew are now back at work, and the company expects domestic capacity to increase beyond its previous estimate of reaching 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels in the final quarter of this financial year to 90 per cent.
Jetstar is expected to exceed 100 per cent domestic capacity due to strong leisure demand. To help meet this increased demand, Jetstar will deploy six Airbus A320 aircraft on loan from Jetstar Japan on leisure routes.
The budget carrier also expects to deploy up to five of its Boeing 787-8 aircraft, usually flown on international routes, in the domestic market from mid-year until international flying returns.
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Qantas has also engaged Alliance Airlines to operate three Embraer E190 aircraft from May to provide capacity on existing Qantas routes in northern and central Australia.
Under an agreement announced earlier this year, Qantas can access up to 14 E190 aircraft from Alliance Airlines.
Qantas also announced yesterday that it has signed a new seven-year agreement with Accor for the hospitality group to continue managing Qantas lounges in Australia and overseas.
The new agreement is an extension of a 14-year partnership between the two companies, which sees Accor providing day-to-day management of food and beverage services and employee training across the airline’s network of domestic and international lounges.
Qantas will reopen its international First lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, along with its Premium Lounge in Brisbane, from Monday to coincide with the trans-Tasman bubble. All three lounges have been closed for more than a year.
Platinum One, Platinum and Gold frequent flyers, along with business customers and Qantas Club members flying on the Tasman, will be invited to visit these two First lounges until the airline’s other international lounges reopen.