Qantas expects to resume flying to South Africa and Japan in the second half of this year, according to the airline's request to renew services to both counties.
Update: Qantas has now relisted flights to Johannesburg and Tokyo beginning 31 October 2021, along with the bulk of other international routes. Read our latest report for moew details.
Under a standing arrangement with Australia's International Air Services Commission (IASC), Qantas holds the rights to "seven frequencies per week on the South Africa route" along with "unlimited passenger capacity on the Japan route."
Qantas has this week applied to have both agreements extended for a period of five years, and said it is "committed (to) recommencing and growing both the South Africa and Japan routes at the earliest opportunity (likely second half ‘21) when restrictions ease and scheduled services become operationally and commercially viable."
The airline's application to the IASC notes that it is "currently operating ad-hoc services to Johannesburg in support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s repatriation flights, and is operating scheduled freight-only services to Tokyo in support of Austrade."
As previously reported, Qantas has now resumed selling tickets on almost all international flights – including Johannesburg and Tokyo – for travel from July 1, with Sydney-Johannesburg seeing a Boeing 787 Dreamliner taking over from the now-retired Boeing 747.
At that time, a Qantas spokesperson said the move "reflected our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021."
The Federal Government was harshly critical of Qantas' move, with Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack saying "decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian Government."
The government is currently reviewing the national border closures which have blocked overseas travel for almost all Australians, with the prospect of the current ban being extended to June in the face of newer, more virulent strains of COVID-19.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has also resurrected the prospects of direct flights between Perth and Johannesburg, in addition to the established Sydney-Jo'burg route, once international travel resumes.
In pre-COVID times that route was flown exclusively by South African Airways, which has since spent much of 2020 facing its own set of dire financial challenges.