Qantas remains keen to launch direct flights between Perth and Johannesburg, in addition to the established Sydney-Jo'burg route, once international travel resumes.
However, a sticking point remains the airline's ongoing dispute with Perth Airport – particularly with regard to Qantas' desire to run its Perth flights from its integrated Terminal 3-Terminal 4 hub, rather than the T1 international terminal used by other airlines.
For the time being, Sydney-Johannesburg is set to switch over to a Boeing 787-9 following last year's retirement of the Boeing 747.
The jumbo-to-Dreamliner swap was already on the cards before COVID-19 struck, and Qantas has received ETOPS approval for the route.
(ETOPS refers to the restrictions placed on twin-engined aircraft by aviation regulators, which limit how far commercial flights can venture from a safe landing point on the ground: a cap that's particularly relevant on long over-water flights, and which varies from one aircraft type to the next.)
"We've now got the ETOPS approval for the 787s to fly direct from Sydney to Jo'burg, in fact we've already done a few repatriation flights that way," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce reflected at the recent Reuters Next online forum.
"And if we can resolve our dispute with Perth Airport, we will start the Perth-Jo'burg service, which is on our list of new routes, and we think that will be very successful," Joyce added.
Pulling the plug
Perth-Johannesburg was previously flown exclusively by South African Airways, which spent much of 2020 facing its own set of financial issues.
Qantas has long been keen to challenge SAA on the route, and planned to launch four direct flights a week in late 2018 on a seasonal basis from November-March using an Airbus A330.
However, in June 2018 the airline revealed it had scrapped the service due to disagreements with Perth Airport over which terminal it would use, given that Qantas had already established an international wing at its domestic T3 terminal for flights to London and Singapore.
This would also streamline connection for Qantas' domestic passengers flying to Perth to make the journey to Johannesburg, and remove the need for the A330 to be towed between the domestic and international terminals.
"We’re very keen on South Africa (and) we think it's a good growth opportunity for us," Joyce said.
Joyce also reiterated his desire to resume flights to Taipei and Seoul, should travel between Australia and those countries open up well before the rest of the world.
"We're very actively looking at Korea and Taiwan, particularly Korea... we haven’t been into those markets for some time, I think around the Asian financial crisis we pulled some of those services (so) depending on how those markets open up we could see good demand from them."