Qantas expects its premier international business class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne will remain closed for at least another six months, until the airline's proposed October 31 restart for the bulk of overseas flights.
That date remains circled in the calendar of Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, despite delays to the federal government's vaccination rollout, which had delivered only 670,000 doses at the end of March compared to the Prime Minister's original goal of having four million people vaccinated by the end of March.
"We haven’t walked away from October," Joyce says. "We are getting ready and still planning, and it’s our best guess at the end of October for the market to open up."
In the interim, Joyce expects that more NZ-style travel bubbles could be established with "countries in the region, especially in the Asia-Pacific, that have had a tight control on COVID."
"They give us market opportunities for Singapore, like Japan, markets like Taiwan for us to potentially open up," he suggests.
"But we're also actively looking at the Pacific Islands because there are really good opportunities in places like Fiji."
Joyce has previously suggested that the airline would consider launching flights to Taipei – a destination the airline abandoned some 20 years ago – to capitalise on quarantine-free travel between Australia and Taiwan.
So while Qantas' flagship first class lounges at Sydney and Melbourne opened their doors this week – and not just to the usual top-tier Platinum frequent flyers, but also to Gold card-holders and Qantas Club members – the neighbouring business lounges are likely to to be shuttered for some time.
"I don't think the business class lounges will reopen until more of our international network opens, hopefully at the end of October," Qantas' Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully tells Executive Traveller.
The majority of Qantas' international lounge visitors were carried on flights to Asia, the US and London, most of which in turn relied on the now-retired Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the double-decker Airbus A380 superjumbo – which the airline expects to be stood down until 2023-2024 – and the premium-heavy Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
This also gives Qantas six months of opportunity to spark the ambition of Gold-grade frequent flyers and Qantas Club members to strive for Platinum status and continue enjoying the first class lounge after the business class lounges unlock their doors.
"If we can get our Gold members and Qantas Club members that normally go to the Business Lounge to have a taste of what the First Lounge experience is like," Tully tells Executive Traveller, "we expect they are going to be highly motivated (to stay there), so it's a great way for us to stimulate that demand for Platinum."
(To that end, we wouldn't be surprised to see another Double Status Credits promotion launched towards the end of this year, as another opportunity for Golds to level up to Platinum.)
And with an Australia-Singapore bubble back under discussion, it's likely the 240-seat Singapore First Lounge could fling open its doors for all lounge-worthy travellers while the larger 600-seat Singapore Business Lounge remains closed, Tully has previously indicated to Executive Traveller.
This would be Qantas putting its best foot forward for a return to the Lion City, along with right-sizing its lounge offering to suit Singapore's new role in the network – with undoubtedly fewer travellers for some time, and without the twice-daily Airbus A380 in transit between Sydney and London.
(Indeed, depending on demand it's possible that Qantas might restart the Kangaroo Route with only the Perth-London Boeing 787.)