Qantas pushes back flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan

When it comes to restarting flights to Asia, vaccines may trump travel bubbles.

By David Flynn, January 4 2021
Qantas pushes back flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan
Executive Traveller exclusive

Qantas has delayed the proposed March 29, 2021 restart of its flights to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

The trio of popular Asian destinations were set to join New Zealand as the airline's sole international destinations through to mid-2021, in the hope of COVID-safe travel bubbles opening up to those countries.

However, Qantas' revised schedule now sees its Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan flights pushed back to July 1, 2021.

Executive Traveller understands this reflects a shift in Qantas' thinking on the prospects of two-way travel bubbles opening up on a reliable basis, as evidenced by recent outbreaks within Australia as well as a last-minute halt to the proposed Singapore-Hong Kong bubble.

On the bright side, July 1 is when the rest of Qantas' international network is now set to resume – including the rest of Asia as well as the USA and London.

"We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation," a Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller.

"Recently we have aligned the selling of our international services to reflect our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021."

Read more: Qantas reopens bookings for all international flights from July 2021

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Apr 2012

Total posts 58

2021, I think will be very fluid in travel, even domestically, until hopefully some long term options & vaccines ... just have to keep up our diligence  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 633

Vaccine(s) or not, I think you'd have to have a 44 gallon drum full of optimism to even consider the UK or USA in July 2021.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I see these 'predictions' from QF as being a bit on the irresponsible side of the fence. Clearly, the first 'returnees' to the international skies will be those adventurous souls who are 'leisure' travellers and are intent on coming out of their hibernation after a roughly enforced 18 months sojourn at home. Demand here is already proven as significant. Quarantine, shut-downs, lockdowns, masks are testing the patience of people the world over. 

And that is when they get silly / irresponsible / self-centred. It is also when communities see most risk.

Anyone that thinks business travel will lead the return to the skies has overdosed on too many Skittles, IMHO. Companies will not be willing to take the risk of sending employees anywhere, when there is a defined risk of that employee contracting COVID and possibly launching a return lawsuit as a 'thank you'.  

Self-employed / independent Contractors may choose to jump in, but I would doubt an immediately large influx here.

The allure of Conference Call software and it's rapidly improving technical capabilities may not yet be ideal, but advances and upgrades are outpacing the return of wide-bodied fleets ...  and will be the "lesser of two evils" for another 18 months, if not longer. 

Working from home appears to finally be ingrained in the business psyche and will also be refined. To whit, Business travel will be re-shaped - and we will start seeing the green shoots of this in Q2 of 2021. 

2021 may in fact be the death of the 'never born' travel bubble. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that some more stability than we have now will need to become evident before people can travel in numbers. If anything, the recent NSW outbreak has shown how fragile things really are. Just because you can travel, doesn't necessarily mean you can avoid state quarantine borders, let alone international - and it will remain that way for much of 2021, vaccine or no vaccine.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

I think you're right. I don't see business travel ever returning to the levels we saw pre-Covid. Certain types of business travel just isn't cost feasible any more and can't be justified. We're likely to see future business travel be dominated by high level meetings as opposed to any old employee being sent to meet a potential customer overseas.

10 Aug 2020

Total posts 22

They will start flying again after they stop getting funded by the government and tax payers.. and they don't really have a choice because of these outrageous travel bans.. what sort of free country won't even allow citizens to leave.. some might just want to leave and not to concerned about coming back.. I am totally sick of this government's travel bans.. I will be an expat by the end of the year if travel doesn't return.. no deserve to be held against there will.. 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 45

Totally agree. This ban on Aussies going overseas is ridiculous.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

It's absolutely ridiculous, but unless you're a dual citizen or resident of a particular foreign country, the vast majority of the world remains heavily restricted so unless there are extenuating circumstances or essential reasons for travel, I think 99% of people currently in Australia will find there is little reason to want to travel right now. Getting back is another bureaucratic and expensive mess. So if you are able to leave, it's basically a one way journey with no set return date.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

@kim, I think the Aussie government will be perfectly happy with 80% vaccination uptake.

29 Jan 2020

Total posts 27

Is that Neil Perry in the photo?

Re international travel from 01 July, most current travel insurance does not cover Covid.....so how for example, could you contemplate flying to the USA, with the highest medical costs on the planet?

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

Yes, that is him in the HKG Int'l Lounge which is the best of QF's international lounges globally IMHO.  Not too sure if the A380 in the background was actually there or is a photoshop.  Every time I have flown through HKG, I've never seen a QF plane so close to the terminal.

That's a real Qantas A380, Qantas generally used those gates up near the lounge, either gates 15-16 which were right across from the lounge or the low 20s at the start of the concourse.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

Considering that residents in SG and HK are in highly compact urban living, largely compliant with public health directive with government committed to free availability of vaccines (both cities have access to the US and EU/UK vaccines) I woul have thought they are going to vaccinate their population alot faster and alot more than we will ever achieve here. 

JP is an interesting case where about 60% population say they will have the vaccine but I suspect as more people have their shots it will put peer pressure on others so the uptake will be something higher, maybe even 80%+.

I don't think we gonna get anywhere close to 70% uptake here if we are lucky. 

Frankly then the snubbing of these Asian destination simply doesn't make sense and only pushes Australian who want to travel to use those Asian airlines 

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

A lot easier to vaccinate most of the population in two of the tiniest jurisdictions on the planet than the world's 6th largest country (Australia) that in addition to the cities has a vast hinterland. Although the WHO has said that no country should (or is even likely to) mandate the shot outright, I can envision uptake to be of the order of 95-98% in both Singapore and Hong Kong due to the compliance that citizens/residents of these two territories have with public health directives as you say. In Australia it could easily be 70-80% for the first shot, but probably a lot less for the second one, depending on the severity of adverse events.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 633

I would mention here that as part of Mainland China, Hong Kong may have access to the Pfizer/BioNTech and Astra Zeneca vaccines. They would also most certainly have access to the Chinese developed SinoPharm and Sinovac products. 

Similar to other countries worldwide, the 'end-user' / patient will have little to no say in what they receive, as a vaccine. It is not a 'shopping' trip - however, the State / Federal authourities dispensing the product(s) may assign specific products to individual clusters of their population.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

@kimshep

If you did a simple search today you would have found that HK has secured 22.5 million doses of vaccines from 3 companies in equal proportion (Pfizer, Oxford/AZ and Sinovac) for its 7.5 millions residents (the last deal is with O/AZ which is confirmed at least 2 -3 weeks ago). It would have helped inform your posts rather than the speculation of what the HK government may have access to or not

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

@kimshep, pretty sure that HK residents will be allowed to choose to get a western vaccine at a private clinic, where they pay for it themselves if they so choose. Well to do mainland Chinese residents used to get their shots in Hong Kong a couple of years back in the aftermath of the Chinese vaccine debacle.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

@TheFreqFlyer

Actually Carrie Lam announced in Dec 2020 that the residents are in a position to choose between 3 vaccines at no charge  (since they ordered enough for 3 doses for each) although I doubt in practice it will happen easily since the availability of the vaccines will change at different time of the year as they arrive in stages and some will be more popular than others at one stage (before more info about side effects and effectiveness will change demand) so resulting in fairly uneven and fluid availability/shortage.

And some Anglophiles amongst the HK residents will choose the western more expensive options over the cheaper Chinese alternatives..... in my opinion.

I suspect the Chinese vaccine may not be as popular initially but will gain steady traction as people who are not really worried about catching the virus but have to get the vaccine due to work or travel requirement, start to choose the least popular (hence most easily available) options. 

Generally the issues surrounding the Chinese (or Russian) vaccines are not related to its safety but its effectiveness (or rather the availability and “western” media/scientists trust of available published data on their efficacy trials). So for those people who don’t really feel worried about catching the virus but just want to get it done so that they can return to work or travel (international borders/airlines cannot be seen to be discriminating against Chinese or Russian vaccines so they have to let them through), then choosing the Chinese option means you are more likely to complete the course of vaccination without worrying about the supplies (unlike the more promoted Oxford/AZ or P-BMT vaccines)

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

@XWu, I see. Though I presume one of the western vaccines will be the default at more expensive private clinics/hospitals, while the Chinese one will be offered through community clinics and public hospitals. Perhaps some of them will stock one of the other ones or all three versions.

We don't know yet what if any requirements there will be related to compulsory vaccination despite what has been predicted/speculated in the media. I don't think that even in Hong Kong, there will be a mandate. Some companies might coerce their employees to receive the shot, but it doesn't mean they can force it upon them (except maybe health care workers).

As for the safety and efficacy of the different shots - actually, since the Russian and Chinese ones appear not to be using the mRNA technology (which has never been used before in vaccines) they could end up being safer than the western ones! Yet most pro-western people out there believe the opposite to be true. The Russian and Chinese ones are likely to be basically another version of the flu shot.

Anyway, whatever happens in terms of vaccine rollout and requirements to have one remains to be seen, but it is highly unlikely any changes to travel will occur in 2021. Dr. Berman from UTS, a senior lecturer in tourism has already said that should a vaccine requirement for travel be implemented, it won't happen for some time yet (probably only 2022 or 23, once global uptake has been deemed to be sufficient) although he didn't say it would necessarily happen at all. He simply said it won't happen in 2021.

More than likely, we're going to see testing as continuing for a while to come.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 633

Personally, I think that you're drawing a bit of a 'long bow' trying to rationalise Singapore vs Hong Kong, XWu.

I agree with your comments in respect of Singapore, a generally stable, educated population with highly developed socialisation skills. However, I am challenged to consider Hong Kong's current environment as 'similar' to that of Singapore.

Hong Kong has a highly varied population with a significant percentage of foreign ex-pats. However, increasing numbers of mainland Chinese are moving towards Hong Kong to join the native Hong Kong population. Whilst there is outward 'stability' in everyday life, the political changes enforced by the Chinese mainland Government has engendered a simmering, under-the-lid level of distrust in many parts of the city. Hong Konger's are generally very well educated and quite worldly in outlook. I am, however, not so sure that the same level of trust that exists in Singapore's population will automatically be found in Hong Kong. If you think of enforced population 'manipulation' by Government, then trust plays a large part in your decision algorithm. 

On the other hand, I think most Australians are typically 'over' the COVID experience - and provided that the TGA tests prove that the vaccines are safe and efficacious - then the acceptance rate should be fairly high. In reality, I think we could expect around 78-83% compliance although I would also think that the Government would prefer something closer towards 95%. 

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

@kimshep

Not sure what you mean but I doubt people in HK will cut their nose to spite the face so as to speak. I don't pretend to speak on their behalf and sure. some people in HK may not trust the government but I don't think many have a problem with public health directive or the vaccines themselves, so I don't really buy into the idea that a large proportion of HK population will refuse to take the vaccine simply because they don't trust the government. I believe (and it's only an opinion) while the residents have concerns with the government and their security apparatus, the faith in the public healthcare is largely unaffected.

As for our uptake here, I do not believe that the uptake will be close to 70% by the time QF starts flying to these destination be it mid 2021 (or even by the end of the year) and I do mean 70% of the 22 million population fully vaccinated, not just the one dose. 

But hey if I am proven wrong by 31 Dec 2021 I would not be too upset either. 

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

@XWu, I fully agree. Hong Kong and Singapore have roughly equal trust in the medical system and vaccinations (rightfully or wrongly) that's just the way it goes. They are among the most vaccine compliant populations in the world. Additionally, Singapore (not sure about Hong Kong) mandates 2 vaccines (measles and diphtheria) for all school students and has done so since 1965, with pretty high financial penalties for non-compliant parents. I believe Hong Kong is pretty stringent too, with enforcement taking place at schools.

As in any country or territory, not everyone agrees, but the percentage of the population that will comply with government directives (or even recommendations) in both jurisdictions is likely to be well above 95%. This contrasts with neighboring countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and India, where trust remains relatively high overall, but much lower than in these highly developed city states. Of course demographics, differences in education and income levels and geographical accessibility also play a role. Small city states like Singapore and Hong Kong are so small and almost entirely urbanised, so it's a piece of cake to roll out widespread vaccinations in contrast to larger countries.


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