Australia’s Qantas Airways announced Tuesday (17 March) that it will make deeper cuts to its international and domestic routes as the death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus passed 7,000 and global travel grinds to a virtual halt.
The airline group, which includes Jetstar, said it will cut its international capacity by 90 percent through the end of May, up from a 23 percent cut announced earlier. Total group domestic capacity will be cut by around 60 percent through the end of May, an increase from the initial 5 percent reduction announced earlier.
Qantas said the cuts reflect “a rapid decline in forward travel demand due to government containment measures, corporate travel bans and a general pullback from everyday activities across the community”. The company also said it would ground 150 aircraft, including almost all of the group’s widebody fleet. It added that “key international and domestic routes” will be maintained and it will use some domestic passenger planes for freight-only flights.
The global slump in travel also means Qantas will be looking to shed employees because it has a “significant labour surplus” and travel demand is unlikely to rebound for weeks or possibly months.
“The Qantas group is working to manage this impact as much as possible, including through the use of paid and unpaid leave. This will be in addition to measures already announced, including three months of no pay for the CEO and chairman, significant pay cuts for group executive management and board members, and cancelling of annual bonuses and an off-market buy back,” Qantas said in a statement.
Qantas has also implemented booking waivers for customers wanting to suspend their travel plans. Customers with existing bookings on any domestic or international flight until 31 May 2020, who no longer wish to travel, can cancel their flight and retain the value of the booking as a travel credit voucher. This needs to be processed by 31 March 2020.
Customers who make a new domestic or international booking and later decide they no longer wish to travel, can cancel their flight and retain the value of the booking as a Qantas travel credit or Jetstar travel voucher. This applies to bookings made from 10 March 2020 until 31 March 2020 for travel before 31 May 2020.