Saturday December 18, 2021 is when Qantas expects to resume flying to a select group of international destinations, and for some it's been a staggering 21 months since they last saw the iconic 'flying kangaroo' emblazoned in white against a red tail.
It marks the starting point for a gradual rebuilding of its international network, based on advice from the government over the reopening of Australia's international borders once the national vaccination rate passes the 80% milestone.
"It's obviously up to government exactly how and when our international borders re-open," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce cautions, but says he has shared his plans with the government "and they agree with our broad assumptions, and agree that our plan is reasonable."
The airline's plans also hinge on the prospect of either quarantine-free travel bubbles or 'green lanes' between countries, or a limited period of manageable home isolation on their return to Australia instead of spending 14 days in hotel quarantine for upwards of $3,000.
Singapore, London and Los Angeles all headline the airline's overseas return from December 18, with daily flights – mostly on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – and Qantas planning to reopen its lounges at those destinations.
Jetsetters can also look forward to taking off for Vancouver, Tokyo, Fiji and Honolulu in the days following.
Hong Kong, San Francisco and Dallas/Forth Worth are back on the map from the week commencing February 14, 2022 – although as Executive Traveller exclusively reported earlier this week, Qantas has decided to permanently close its popular Hong Kong lounge.
This list below doesn't include flights between Australia and New Zealand, which Qantas expects will resume in mid-December 2021 "on the assumption some or all parts of the two-way bubble will restart."
Here are the first international routes which Qantas expects to open, based on the airline's schedule - as always, and especially in the era of Covid-19, they're subject to change.
- Sydney-Singapore-London/Heathrow: from December 18, 2021 – daily Boeing 787
- Sydney-Los Angeles: from December 18, 2021 – daily Boeing 787
- Sydney-Singapore: from December 18, 2021 – daily Airbus A330
- Sydney-Honolulu: from December 20, 2021 – four Airbus A330 flights per week
- Sydney-Tokyo/Haneda: from December 19, 2021 – four Airbus A330 flights per week
- Sydney-Vancouver: from December 18, 2021 – three Boeing 787 flights per week
- Sydney-Nadi (Fiji): from December 19, 2021 – four Boeing 737 flights per week
- Sydney-Hong Kong: from February 14, 2022 – four Airbus A330 flights per week
- Sydney-Dallas/Forth Worth: from February 14, 2022 – five Boeing 787 flights per week
- Sydney-San Francisco: from February 16, 2022 – three Boeing 787 flights per week
- Melbourne-Los Angeles: from December 19, 2021 – four Boeing 787 flights per week
- Melbourne-Singapore: from December 18, 2021 – four Airbus A330 flights per week
- Melbourne-Hong Kong: from February 15, 2022 – three Airbus A330 flights per week
- Melbourne-Tokyo/Haneda: from February 15, 2022 – three Airbus A330 flights per week
- Brisbane-Los Angeles: from December 19, 2021 – three Airbus A330 flights per week
- Brisbane-Singapore: from December 19, 2021 – three Airbus A330 flights per week
- Brisbane-Noumea: from January 8, 2022 – one Boeing 737 flight per week
- Brisbane-San Francisco: from February 14, 2022 – three Airbus A330 flights per week
- Perth-London/Heathrow: from December 18, 2021 – daily Boeing 787
- Perth-Singapore: from February 14, 2022 – daily Airbus A330
Qantas says all passengers on these flights will need to be fully vaccinated; the airline will introduce a Travel Pass smartphone app to not only confirm vaccination status but also store and show the results of pre-departure Covid tests, which are likely to be a requirement of entry to many countries.
Qantas will bring more destinations online from April 2022, including those which "still have low vaccine rates and high levels of Covid infection" – such as Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg.
July 2022 will see Sydney-Los Angeles flights upgraded to an Airbus A380, with Sydney-Singapore-London to follow from November 2022, as the superjumbos make a welcome return to the skies.
Qantas has extended its Fly Flexible policy, offering travellers who book international flights before February 28, 2022 the ability to make unlimited date changes to their travel through to December 31, 2022 (although a fare difference may apply, depending on the ticket pricing for a later booking).
Read more: Qantas Airbus A380s to return from July 2022