Qantas to push back international flights

A Qantas Dreamliner. (PHOTO: Shutterstock) flag carrier Qantas said Wednesday (12 May) that it would be forced to push back any planned international flights to at least the end of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s revised timeline for completing its vaccine rollout. The move on vaccines means Australia will not “significantly” reopen its international borders until mid-2022. The exception is for international flights currently occurring between Australia and New Zealand.

“We remain optimistic that additional bubbles will open once Australia’s vaccine rollout is complete to countries who, by then, are in a similar position, but it’s difficult to predict which ones at this stage,” Qantas said in a statement. “This planning assumption will allow the Qantas Group – and Australia – to be ready to take advantage of pockets of tourism and trade opportunity as they emerge in a post-COVID world. We will keep reviewing these plans as we move towards December and circumstances evolve.”

In the meantime, the airline said it will continue to provide critical repatriation and freight flights overseas and support the recovery of travel at home. The resurgence of domestic travel remains the most important element of the group’s recovery. “We will reach out directly to any customers with a booking between 31 October 2021 and 19 December 2021, however recent levels of uncertainty meant international booking levels were relatively low. Again, please note that trans-Tasman flights are unaffected, Qantas said.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said back in April that once borders do reopen, he believes it likely that people will have to use some kind of digital ‘vaccine passport’ to travel internationally. “We’ve said for some time, we think to open up the international waters, you’re going to have to have a vaccination type passport. And the (Australian) government’s even said this, and other governments are saying it. But to travel, you either need to do quarantine or you need to be vaccinated eventually. And we know people we’re not going to go with the 14-day quarantine and it just kills travel. So the vaccination requirements looks like it’s the only way to restart the international markets again,” Joyce said.

“And as we said, it looks like the Israelis may be doing a deal with Greece and Cyprus, will allow people to travel to those countries if they’re vaccinate,” Joyce said. “Iceland has said you can enter the country without quarantine if you’re vaccinated, it’s happening and it’s happening in the rest of the world. And then the second thing, we have a duty of care too. As you know, we’re regarded as the safest airline in the world, but we have the duty to the care to our people and to our passengers. And if there’s a way of enhancing that in anything we do, we’re always going to be at the forefront doing it. So having a requirement, even if it wasn’t governments to do it, having a requirement to ask people to be vaccinated before they get on our aircraft…you would of course, think that that’s the sensible thing to do…our customers are saying, it gives them confidence in travelling internationally.

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