Qantas reopens bookings for all international flights from July 2021

Is overseas travel ready to bounce back from the middle of this year?

By David Flynn, January 4 2021
Qantas reopens bookings for all international flights from July 2021
Executive Traveller exclusive

Qantas is beginning the new year with a note of optimism on the prospects of vaccination and preflight COVID-19 testing helping to restart international travel.

The airline has now reopened bookings across its entire overseas network for travel from July 1, 2021. This includes flights to the USA and London, having previously pulled those routes from the schedule until at least October 2021.

New Zealand has remained the only overseas destination listed on Qantas' timetable through to March 29.

However, as previously reported, planned March 29 resumption of flights to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan has now been scrapped in favour of a July 1 reboot for almost all international Qantas flights.

A Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller the airline has "aligned the selling of our international services to reflect our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021."

"We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation."

The Federal Government has been 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."

"International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians."

New York a notable omission

A handful of destinations are missing from Qantas the July 2021 roster.

Perhaps the most notable is New York – Qantas previously flew a Boeing 787 between Los Angeles and New York's JFK Airport – while direct Brisbane-Chicago flights, which were set to launch on 15 April 2020, have yet to make a return.

Non-stop flights from Sydney to Santiago, which previously relied on one of Qantas' now-retired Boeing 747s but was due to be swapped for a Boeing 787, are still suspended, although Sydney-Johannesburg has bounced back with a Dreamliner doing duty on the 14-hour trek.

Speaking at the Qantas' 2020 annual general meeting in October, Qantas Group CEO Alan, Joyce said that "for some of our big destination like the United States and the UK, it's going to need a vaccine given the high prevalence of the virus in both of those locations."

"But we are getting more and more confident about the opportunities and the potential for a vaccine in helping getting those operations up by potentially by the end of 2021."

Joyce has previously said that vaccination will be mandatory for all international Qantas flights, with likely exceptions made on 'travel bubble' corridors.

And with all 12 of Qantas' Airbus A380s mothballed until at least 2023, the Boeing 787-9 will replace the superjumbo on flagship routes to London, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth.

The superjumbos are in for an extended sleep.
The superjumbos are in for an extended sleep.

Qantas is expected to bring back all the Boeing 787s currently idling at a storage facility at the edge of California's Mojave Desert, including three Dreamliners which flew straight there from Boeing's Seattle assembly line.

Some routes will also see a reduction in frequency. For example, Sydney-Hong Kong – which used to see two Qantas flights per day in pre-COVID times – will initially be cut back to a single daily Boeing 787.

Read more: How Qantas will hibernate its Airbus A380 for the next three years

Vaccination rollout begins

Both the UK and the USA have now begun national vaccination programs, while Australian approval for two vaccine candidates is now expected in February.

These are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for which the federal government has a purchasing agreement for 10 million doses, and the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine, with almost 54 million doses – with 50 million of those to be manufactured in Melbourne.

Each vaccine will requite two doses per person – one starter and one booster, administered 2-4 weeks apart – and pending approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, are expected to be available from March.

51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which is currently in late-stage trials, have also been earmarked for Australia.

COVID-19 vaccinations will be free to all Australian residents, although the rollout will be prioritised for front-line healthcare and aged care workers and quarantine staff whose jobs put them at increased risk of exposure and transmission, along with people with a heightened risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19 due to their age or underlying health conditions.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says that Australia "is on track and ahead of schedule" in its vaccine approvals process and he now expects all Australians will be "fully vaccinated" against COVID-19 by October 2021, an advance from the previous target of the end of 2021.

“We expect that Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of October, on the basis that it’s free, universal and entirely voluntary,” Hunt remarked on December 28, 2020, adding that a vaccination uptake of 80% was forecast.

Executive Traveller readers: how quickly do you expect to resume your international travel, and what will be driving that decision? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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.

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 170

Have already re-booked a missed series of vacations from last year to September this year, but then I'm the eternal optimist. Also the EU, having generated reams of rules and regulations for EU travel companies, kindly allowed them to ignore all these rules and regs, so need to return to Europe to take up a delayed (but not refunded) travel arrangement.
And Qatar, who were great with their quick response to the crisis, offered a booking delay for up to two years plus 10%, an offer too good to refuse.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 227

Something doesn’t add up here David. Alan has said he does not want flights to resume until there is mass vaccination, which will be well beyond July.

Also how do 11 787s (since the remaining 3 were cancelled) cover 3 flights a day to LA, 2 a day to London (QF1 via Singapore still seems to be there?), Dallas, San Fransisco, South Africa and Hong Kong? If Qantas are selling flights again they should be honest on what they plan to operate. 

To me this seems like an opportunistic cash grab to try and get cash at any cost into the business for flights Alan has no plans on actually flying. 

I guess things are pretty dire at the moment, but I will only book trips next year on airlines that have kept flying like United and Delta.

05 May 2016

Total posts 620

Hong Kong (and flights to Singapore that don't go onto London) could be serviced by the A330.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Oct 2018

Total posts 5

It's unlikely all the destinations will re-start at the same time. But Qantas does have another 3 787s sitting in Victorville that have yet to be formally delivered and also the A330 fleet that could do Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo. I do find it interesting that even with domestic travel starting I still see half the A330-200 fleet stored on the east-west runway at Sydney Airport. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 432

The extra 3 787s have not been cancelled. (I think you're confusing them with the options that have not yet been exercised.

Those additional 3 787s have been delivered direct to Victorville - VH-ZNL/M/N. So that's 14 787s in the QF fleet.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 227

Thanks for pointing that out, you're right. I read they were deferred, but can't find to when they have been deferred until?

From their results - "Delivery 787-9s and A321NEOs deferred to meet the Group's requirements"

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 96

With the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine now starting to be rolled out, we should see large percentages of people in countries that Qantas flies to vaccinated by mid way this year. I could also imagine they have been speaking to the government and department of health to make sure that if everything goes to plan the travel restrictions might ease. 

Now I will predict one thing, the Australian government will require people to be vaccinated to leave and arrive into Australia when the borders open (unless for special circumstances). 

In regards to the July 1 start, I see this more as a guess at what time travel will open up and I wouldn't be surprised if their recommencement date changes. Also the amount of flights at the start seem a bit high, so I think this is more of an attempt to gauge the customer demand, with adjustments to the frequencies depending on the demand. 

When international gets started again, they will probably only start with PER>LHR, 1 daily from 1 East Coast airport to LAX, HND, HKG and SIN and possibly an weekly JNB and SCL flight. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 360

@KW72 what is your personal vendetta against Qantas? Absolutely every comment you make on this site is attacking and/or negative towards them with a spin on your conspiracy theory about them "cash grabbing" and the like. The irony is that most of what you say is entirely incorrect (like here where you incorrectly claim Qantas have cancelled 3 787s). Maybe that's why you struggle to post comments (as per your post in the community boards), because hopefully they're being moderated out for being absolute dribble and with no basis or fact behind anything you say.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 360

@KW72 All it takes is a simple click on your username to see that every single comment is a negative Qantas dig. Take it up with them if you have an issue, here is not the place

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

KW I suspect the frequency will be much less. They don’t need a mass vaccination but just those who want to go or come. The unknown is the quarantine protocol at each end as we don’t know the infectiousness of those vaccinated. The full flight schedule will only occur after mass vaccination so it won’t matter if there is residual infectiousness.

19 Nov 2012

Total posts 44

The remaining 3 were NOT cancelled. QF negotiated with Boeing not to take delivery until the A/C were required. As the article says they were flown straight into storage.

05 May 2016

Total posts 620

I would love to go to London in July if they get the virus under control there, however if vaccination is required I doubt I'll be vaccinated by then unless after the most at risk are vaccinated they give priority to those wishing to do international travel.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 432

By July, there should have been a substantial proportion of Australians, Americans and Brits vaccinated. And the federal government is saying that by October, every Australian who wants a vaccination will have had it. 

The issue will be whether people have confidence that borders will remain open and that there will be no quarantine imposed on those who have been vaccinated.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

It is important to remember that the vaccination does not remove the risk of catching Covid, it only reduces the symptoms greatly.  A person who has these reduced symptoms is still contagious to other people so with only 30-40% coverage (at best) in Australia by July, there is no way the government can risk bringing in international travellers without quarantine at that time.  December still looks a far more likely date.  

I wouldn't be making too many plans.  I was booked for a Europe trip with my wife in September; I have now asked my travel agent to push it out to September 2022.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

Reeves the infectiousness of vaccinated folk is still an unknown but you are probably right a limited service of vaccinated people and some level of testing and quarantine.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 598

Fingers Crossed they’re right, we’ll probable travel overseas from Sydney before travelling to Qld.

11 Apr 2018

Total posts 19

I think we will have people who are vaccinated travelling by October but as others have said doubt very much COVID will be under control because of poor uptake of the vaccine. I have never seen so many doubters speak about not having the vaccine and they are not the usual antivaxxers. As such would think any bookings made for 2021 to USA/UK will likely result in the usual credit offer. Dont blame Qantas for trying it, they are a business after all

have spoken to few airline execs in past few weeks & few have said April for restart of all of their international flights in some form or other (might be reduced schedule. ie. instead of daily, 3 to 4 times a week initially, depending on actual demand), the exception being NZ & some Pacific Islands. The new Pasifika Air is expected to start flying from NZ(Wellington & Christchurch, not Auckland) to Cook Islands from May 2021.

Alan may know something we don't. Hopefully he is right, as always. 

if other airlines start flying to UK/EU & USA/Canada in April, Qantas will quickly resume.

10 Aug 2020

Total posts 22

I will be out of here like a shot.. please I hope travel goes ahead soon.. but I won't be booking until the night before.. I don't care if I can't get back.   I'm out of here.. 

just heard of a group of Australians going skiing in USA in March (the trip is for "business" so they already have exemptions)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 178

For my friend’s sake who is a FO on the 787 I hope this is the case. It has been a hard year for him and his colleagues. 

qantas might have a tough time selling international fares after March/April when economy falls off the cliff. Seen some crazy fares being banded around like less than $700 return to USA on one stop airlines. Obviously these sorts of numbers will be "opening specials" to get people to notice & might not be available en masse, but gone are the days when you have to buy a $3000 return economy fare to LAX, before you can upgrade.

05 May 2016

Total posts 620

You do realise that the cheapest economy fares cannot be upgraded unless there’s a special promotion to allow that or some other special circumstances?

mviy

some airlines are now allowing you to upgrade straight from ANY economy fare to business class.

05 May 2016

Total posts 620

I would be very surprised if QF did this. When QF resumes international flights there's going to be a lot of flyers with large points balances who have been unable to use their points for international flights for some time due to border closures.

MYIY

1) didn't say you could use ff points to upgrade - $$$$

2) didn't say it was Qantas, just better airlines

that's some BETTER airlines

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2016

Total posts 49

Cash flow driving scheduling not reality!

I expect Alan knows he will not have international flights in any meaningful way by July.  This is really only to generate cash at a time they continue to burn more than they have coming in.  Particularly given the most recent border closures

recent border closures are nothing to do with health & all about politics & power.

I still think Qantas will start flying everywhere when international borders open 18 March 2021, inc qantas

11 Apr 2018

Total posts 19

Who says international borders open in March? That is just when current advisory runs out isnt it?

18 March 2021 - this could be brought forward I suppose. Everyday they are closed, more chance of airlines going under. Less airlines, means higher fares means less tourism. China is just waiting to move.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

Government has now clearly told QF that it is the government that decides when international borders reopen and that will be when arriving passengers no longer pose a threat.  In other words, July most likely won't happen and any thoughts of travel in March are pure fantasy. 

no mccormack just saying he has power. Doesn't mean borders won't open 18 March at all.

A day is a long time in politics, so how can you guess when borders will be open ? You can't.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

We are 10 weeks from 18/3.  You currently cannot fly from Sydney to Melbourne.  UK and US are both experiencing record cases and deaths. The Australian vaccination program is anticipated to commence from about mid-March. There is no chance of international borders opening in March.  July is a slim chance; some time in Q4 much more likely. 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

Reeve McCormack is all over the shop. The border is not closed but rather very heavily regulated. They may not increase the cap of inward bound given the infectiousness of arrivals even if they have had the jab, but they have been increasing Aussies outward bound steadily and quitely over some months now and will continue to do so. Interesting McCormack doesn’t like Qantas selling tickets but others can and have been doing it for months, mainly for non Aussies leaving.

18 Sep 2020

Total posts 2

McCormack is just unhappy because he knows what QF is going to do to his former colleagues’ little tax payer funded jet start up come March. 

lebar

think you have it wrong way around. Rex is going to slaughter qantas's most profitable route & qantas stuck between a rock & a hard place. Unions won't easily let qantas cut pay & conditions to even get close to Rex. Rex doesn't want to do thinner jet routes. Why would they. All the money is in triangle BNE/SYD/MEL/BNE.

Watch the freebees fly

27 Oct 2017

Total posts 3

Qantas is trying to push a business decision, but hasn’t given any rationale . The Federal government has given a warning that international travel won’t happen at a defined date  because there is a pandemic. The government has followed advice from the WHO and Federal/State and Territory Chief Medical Officers. The WHO gives no indication of an end point to this pandemic, nor do any of our Chief Medical Officers.Unfortunately pandemics are unpredictable.  Presumably that puts Qantas in a situation of knowingly selling a service which people here  can’t use, unless Qantas can prove otherwise. That could have legal ramifications for the company managers and  the board of directors for allowing such a decision.

nah, many airlines will fly ex OZ well before 1 July 2021.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

Regular this isn’t another one of your ‘predictions’ is it. There are about eight now. How many more do you think are coming.

08 May 2020

Total posts 60

Pulling the plug on existing Booking is probably the only right thing to do now. To keep deferring the Flights originally booked Jan 2020 is free to to re-book, however every time trying to re-book the Bus Class cost has gone up for a new proposed period. With the continuous uncertainty when Australia and country of destinations open up to free travel without Hotel quarantine pushing the flights of by ?? months by anybody's Guess. Talking to some Friends who are suggesting that instead continuously re-booking get to cancel the flight and get reimbursed on the fare payment. Once bookings can be taken with certainty, there will be a many Airlines pushing for Customers and offering potentially great & better Fare prices. 


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