Qantas intends to resume flying to most international destinations from the end of October 2021, pushing back from a previously-pencilled July timeframe.
The airline says the new date for a restart of overseas flights "aligns with the expected timeframe for Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout to be effectively complete."
22 of the airline's 25 pre-COVID international destinations will be back on the map – including Los Angeles, London and Johannesburg – from 31 October 2021. Flights to some cities New York (from Los Angeles), Santiago and Osaka will remain suspended.
"Throughout the pandemic, we’ve updated our assumptions on international travel restarting," says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
"We're in close consultation with government, and if things change, so will our dates. But with the vaccine rollout already underway, we’re on the right track."
Joyce's comments came on the back of the airline announcing a $1.5 billion statutory loss across July-December 2020.
"These figures are stark, but they won’t come as a surprise," he noted.
"Border closures meant we lost virtually 100 per cent of our international flying and 70 per cent of our domestic flying. Three-quarters of our revenue – around $7 billion – went with it."
However, once overseas flights come back, the new schedule will show marked differences from pre-COVID days due to the overall lower number of travellers, which could also lean towards more 'COVID-safe' destinations.
As a result, the airline says that "frequencies and aircraft type deployed on each route in line with the projected recovery of international flying," and warns that "international capacity is not expected to fully recover until 2024."
Qantas also confirmed it is assessing "digital health pass apps to help support the resumption of COVID-safe international travel," with the IATA Travel Pass and CommonPass apps being trialled on its international repatriation flights.
However, Trans-Tasman flying will be ramped up from July 2021 in the expectation of the opening of the long-awaited Australia-New Zealand travel bubble.
To encourage consumer confidence in making international bookings, Qantas will allow an unlimited number of free date-changes – up to a full year in advance – to overseas flights booked from today "until at least the end of April 2021."
Credit vouchers already help by passengers who've had their flights cancelled will now remain fresh through to 31 December 2023.
More to follow..