Qantas is in discussions with the Federal Government about restarting international flights to help bring home some of the estimated 25,000 Australians who remain stranded overseas.
The flights would be subsidised by the government, with ticket prices set at "reasonable" rates so that passengers would not be "gouged by high airfares", says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
Speaking with ABC Radio, Joyce said the airline stands ready to put its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners back into the skies under the same arrangement as across April-June 2020, which saw the government underwrite the operating costs of each flight.
Those repatriation flights includes special charter services from India, Japan, Hawaii, South America and South Africa, along with regular flights from Auckland, Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles.
"We did a hundred flights like that pre-June to get a load of Australians home under that model," Joyce said.
"The issue for us is that we're burning $40 million in cash a week at the moment. We can’t put any services on unless we can cover the cash costs, because it's all about the survival of Qantas now."
How the Qantas repatriation flights would work
Joyce said that some international airlines which continue flying to Australia "are sponsored by their governments," name-dropping Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways, "and that's fair enough."
"All we need is to cover the cost of the fuel, to cover the cost of the salaries of the pilots and the cabin crew and the airport costs."
The previous repatriation flights were operated a cost-recovery basis, with passenger revenue remitted to the government to offset the total cost of operations.
"We have been talking to the government about whether we can put special Qantas flights on to destinations and offer reasonable airfares," Joyce said.
"The government at the moment sponsors a regional network and a domestic network - if the economics are not covered by the cost of the airfares, the government subsidises to keep those destinations open."
"We're saying let's do the same thing internationally, and then you don’t get people being gouged by high airfares."
Joyce said Qantas was eager to bring back "as many Australians who want to get home, and we need to do that as fast as possible – we'd like to do it before Christmas."
His comments come as the government moves to increase the number of international arrivals from 4,000 to 6,000 per week, effective as of Friday September 25.