Qantas ends repatriation flights to London, Los Angeles

A funding arrangement for the government-underwritten flights expired over the weekend.

By David Flynn, June 8 2020
Qantas ends repatriation flights to London, Los Angeles

Qantas has ended its special government-underwritten repatriation flights to London and the USA, with the last of the subsidised international flights landed this morning from Los Angeles.

The Qantas Boeing 787 flights ran twice-weekly on the London-Perth-Melbourne route, with another red-tailed Dreamliner soaring each week between Los Angeles and Melbourne, and were the only remaining scheduled international Qantas services since the airline shut down all overseas routes at the end of March.

The airline confirmed the halt to Executive Traveller this morning, framing it as more of a pause than pulling the plug, depending on if the government opts to continue the 'international minimum viable network' program, which program underwrites flights on selected overseas routes in much the same way as Australia's domestic and regional flights.

The last of Qantas subsidised international flights landed this morning from Los Angeles. The flights were operated a cost-recovery basis, with passenger revenue remitted to the government to offset cost of operations.

However, Qantas now indicates that its government-supported London and Los Angeles services won't be returning, although it remains ready to mount some 'ad hoc' international services if required.

"The temporary international network that Qantas was operating on behalf of the Federal Government has now ended," the airline said in a statement provided to Executive Traveller this afternoon.

"We were proud to have helped thousands of Australians return home as well as taking foreign nationals back in the other direction. We’re particularly grateful to the crew who operated these regular flights together with charters to various other countries over the past few months."

"We’re now working with government to coordinate their continued support of various domestic and regional routes. This will complement the network Qantas and Jetstar will be operating from mid-June by underwriting various destinations that would not otherwise be commercially viable and therefore helping maintain critical transport connections."

Read more: Qantas, Jetstar set to ramp up domestic flights

Virgin Australia has also suspended its weekly Brisbane-LAX flights, although a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Executive Traveller "we remain in discussions with the government and hope to have a new contract finalised soon."

Several international airlines now offer flights from Australia through to the UK and Europe on a commercial, non-underwritten basis – these includes Qatar Airways (via Doha), Emirates and Etihad Airways (via their hub airports at the UAE) and Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong).

Earlier Government-supported Qantas repatriation flights from Hong Kong and Auckland were stood down based on a reduction in "immediate demand", with Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand continuing to fly from those respective cities to Australia.

“To get Australians home as soon as possible, the Federal Government has worked with Qantas and Virgin Australia to maintain scheduled international passenger flights, including to London and Los Angeles," a spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who also heads the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, told Executive Traveller.

"The Australian Government’s minimum international network provided a clear pathway for Australians to return home from abroad during a time of considerable uncertainty regarding the availability of commercial flights," the spokesperson added.

"The Government is reviewing the program noting there are now alternative commercial flight options available from London and Los Angeles."

The UK this week introduces a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all arrivals, including UK nationals, with fines of £1,000 if they fail to self-isolate for the full period.

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.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 322

If you needed to return home to aus, you probably already have. I can imagine these flights were chock full of freight however. Maybe pull some seats and turn these planes into temporary combi's?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jul 2017

Total posts 23

American Airlines were still flying at full wight capacity based solely on freight with no reconfig to seating.

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 8

Not true, don't believe everything you see on television.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 65

so, in the event of me having to urgently visit an elderly sister in the Netherlands, i would have to rely on Qatar, Emirates, Etihad or Cathay to get to Europe.....pity about that. Any advice on how to get a clearance to travel, assuming authorities would allow me to land and mingle?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jul 2017

Total posts 23

Lol. How many choices do you need?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 320

If your trip is indeed "urgent", why worry about which one of four carriers will get you there?

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 671

Urgent humanitarian cases are allowed and there is probably an online form to fill in. If you have a non Australian passport then you can just book but do note two weeks in hotel quarantine when you return.

07 Jun 2020

Total posts 5

Thanks for answering this as I had asked the question yesterday. It is a shame that the other airlines can come in and with everyone at QF hoping this network can continue, And hoping we can start moving a tiny bit. May I put a plea forward to Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne and Prime Minister Morrison to keep the Flying Kangaroo in the international skies and please liase with your fellow DFAT personal around the world about a continuation of this service.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 150

Its best the intl borders remain closed and no flights in and out at moment - protest all you want but won't be happening.

07 Jun 2020

Total posts 5

Well Dan, the borders are open for some, which is why to other airlines are here. I'm not a protester and I won't be protesting but I will be giving my feedback about the QF MIN and while I watch everyone else fly in and out, I will continue to express my concern.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 671

The borders are open for non Australian people to leave and Australians to return to a two week hotel quarantine. That is the some the borders are open to.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 671

Those flights are moving international passengers stuck in Australia: Cathay for Chinese the Mid East carriers for South Asian and others. There is not enough of them to fill Qantas flights as it does not have a network for those countries. Australia is not going to subsidise the movement of non-Australians.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 150

Cathay may be the odd ball in the mix you mention but Emirates Etihad and Qatar are backed and funded by their governments. Theres also some good PR to be seen flying again but whether it's at a loss or not they have each of their governments backing them. Qantas don't have this (and won't) and since the government has deemed it not necessary to underwrite any further repatriation flights - right now it's not on Qantas best interest to be spending on flights that they can not forecast will fully sell.

07 Jun 2020

Total posts 5

You are spot on there Dan.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 150

Correction - interesting that HK government (China) just bought a $5b stake in CX now!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 150

Virgin Aus also ended their intl repatriation flights to LA as of Tuesday 9/6 or is it just about Qantas now!

Qantas

02 May 2016

Total posts 50

Interesting how many look at this purely through an Australian lens, there are literally thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of us Aussies living overseas, US, UK, Europe, Asia etc etc and don't need govt sponsored flights to get home, but why can't QF continue running 1 flight per week or every other week into Melbourne, Sydney etc. Possibly we didn't need to return home due to COVID because ScoMo said so, but many of us have parents and family still in Australia, and have weddings, funerals, 21st's, engagements and the list goes on. I can't believe QR, CX and co are running the flights they are at a loss. Possibly this is payback for QF never buying 777's....maybe these other guys can fill the belly's with freight and make the freight/pax mix worthwhile while QF have no option there - its 787 or A380???

6 months ago you would never have caught me flying United, but 6 weeks ago I was forced to fly SFO/SYD on UA and actually was pleasantly surprised. Certainly not QF standards but it changed my opinion (and I'm Platinum with QF) so makes me wonder what damage it's doing while QF are forcing their customers onto other airlines.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 671

crwilkins the issue is that qantas won't be able to fill the planes with non-Aussies going out while others can due to their hubs and limits on interline transfers. Note all coming back have to do 2-weeks quarantine, hence tricky demand. Need fullish planes going in each direction which the others can do due their hubs and strong networks. QATAR to Europe and South Asia, Singapore to SE Asia, and Cathay to China.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 181

The recently published funding provided to Qantas and Rex vs what the Virgin group got is a total disgrace.


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