Qantas will suspend almost all overseas flights until middle of 2021

International travel looks to be largely off the agenda for most Australians.

By David Flynn, June 25 2020
Qantas will suspend almost all overseas flights until middle of 2021

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says that with the exception of New Zealand and a handful of other 'travel bubble' destinations, all international flying will be suspended until the middle of 2021 unless a coronavirus vaccine is released.

"We might get trans-Tasman (travel) before then, we may get other nations opening up with bubbles," but he doesn't expect the Qantas' international network to restart "in any real size (until) July next year."

"We have to be realistic about it and say with what’s happening in the rest of the globe it is probably an extended period of time" before Australia's borders are thrown open on a pre-pandemic scale, and it would be “years before international flying returns to what it was."

In terms of rebuilding Qantas' overseas network, Joyce suggested that "if there’s a vaccine it may happen rapidly, if there are others ways of testing, of treatment, it may happen a little bit slower."

NZ first, the world to follow

Travel between Australia and New Zealand without a mandatory 14-day quarantine period will be a promising start for Qantas, which like all airlines has been whiplashed by Covid-19.

The two countries remain each other’s top travel destination: 2019 saw some 2.6 million residents of each country jetting back and forth across the Tasman, according to Stats NZ.

"It's a massive market in volume," Joyce said, "and we're hoping with the pent-up demand we're seeing there that could generate some good volumes" of travel.

A September start was previously suggested for the start of the Covid-safe air corridor, but this is now likely to be delayed until after New Zealand's general election is held on 19 September 2020.

Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Fiji have also suggested opening their borders to a handful of countries, including Australia, with Singapore the most likely starter under its 'green lane' proposal.

Rightsizing the Qantas international fleet

As international flying resumes, Joyce says that Qantas' Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and Airbus A330s will carry the load, with the A380 superjumbos sidelined "for at least three years."

"Because they are too big and the economics are not as good as the Boeing 787s, the A380s have to remain on the ground for at least three years" until international demand recovers, Joyce explains, and in the meantime will be stored at a special facility at California's Mojave Desert "because it's a better environment for the aircraft to be sitting there."

"The environment protects the aircraft a lot more and we have the intention at the right time to reactivate them, but that is a considerable amount of time away."

Read more: Qantas to mothball all Airbus A380s until at least 2023

The smaller and more fuel-efficient Boeing 787-9 will become Qantas' international flagship over the next few years.

"Our view is to restart with the smaller, the newest and the most capable aircraft and establish out network as fast as possible," Joyce says.

"The 787s have 230 seats, they’re half the size of the A380, so we’ll operate them with frequency to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, London and to the markets in Asia when they open."

In the early days of the pandemic, before Qantas shut down its entire international network, the airline also nominated the Boeing 787-9s to take over from the Airbus A380 on the Sydney-Dallas route, while the QF1/QF2 service Sydney-Singapore-London service was to be re-routed via Perth and become a second daily non-stop Boeing 787-9 to London, alongside QF9/QF10.

With its Boeing 747 jumbo jets now retired with immediate effect, Executive Traveller understands that Qantas is considering an Airbus A330 to take over the jumbo's routes to South Africa and South America, with one A330 flying Sydney-Perth-Johannesburg and another flying Sydney-Auckland-Santiago.

However, Joyce remains confident of pressing ahead with non-stop Project Sunrise flights to London, Paris and New York once Covid-19 is well behind the airline, saying "it is my every intent that when we can get Qantas back into flying, when we can turn the business around, that we will be doing Project Sunrise,."

Read more: Post-pandemic, Alan Joyce sees Qantas Project Sunrise as a ray of hope

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.

29 Jan 2020

Total posts 22

Why after suggesting 787s would take over Sydney Johannesburg and Sydney Santiago non stop, are Qantas now talking A330s via Perth and Auckland, perhaps anticipating lower loads for some time?

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 93

B787 fleet will already be stretched covering traditionally premium heavy routes previously flown by the A380 whilst also maintatining frequency. The A330's haven't got the legs to reach LHR USA and are the obvious fit for the less premium routes of JNB

Might be because Qantas has delayed delivery of the last three Boeing 787s, which would have arrived later this year and replaced the Boeing 747 on those routes. With fewer Boeing 787s Qantas is probably looking at what it needs in order to cover North American destinations previously flown by the A380 as well as the possibility of double-daily Perth-London flights if demand picks up but they don't have or don't want to put an A380 via Singapore.

Are fully loaded A330s allowed & able to fly Auckland to Santiago ? The Qantas logo looked so good on the B747 & A380. Going to miss seeing them in the sky. I just don't' see the future demand to see them come back again. Hope I'm wrong.

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 93

The -200 is OK, but the -300 might need to be be payload/pax restricted on the westbound SCL-AKL.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1000

Both A330 models have the range, on paper, to do SYD-SCL, though the -300 may have issues wind for a non stop both ways.

QF have operated A330-200s on AKL-LAX before. The problem for SCL would be the lack of airports in the south pacific which would allow for a usable route for ETOPS requirements.

I'll miss the 747. Loved the upperdeck side storage bins. :(

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Mar 2019

Total posts 12

If Qantas is not flying til 2021 that leaves Qatar and Emirates to service all major Australian cities. Qatar has actually increased their services too and from Australia since early March. They are clear winners from this crisis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 203

Antony J you are very naive. Qatar backed just the Qatari government has pulled out all stops for great PR and media coverage - to be seen strong and flying through the pandemic is great for their reputation - it certainly got you. But at what cost is my question - I highly doubt they making profit, just subsidised flying to show their strength because they have government funding.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Mar 2019

Total posts 12

@Dan22 Not sure you understood my post? I didn't say anything about profitability as that matters little to the Emirs of Qatar and the Emirates with their deep pockets. Qatar and Emirates are flying and Qantas is not so as other readers have posted those airlines are winning the business of customers who are normally Qantas flyers.

.....so what if they are government backed/owned ? There are many Australians who prefer flying with either of these two, rather than Qantas.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1000

Qatar still has their max 21 flights/week limit to Australia (SYD/MEL/BNE/PER).

Unless the air service agreement gets changed, QR can not fly more then 28 times/week to the 4 major international ports (21+7 to/via a non limited port).

They were only allowed to increase their flights in March and April because they had a temporary exemption to the air service agreement limits.

If QR wants to increase their flying to Australia and can't get an increase in the agreement, they'll have to add flights to ports like OOL, CNS, DRW, HBA, AVV and/or increase CBR and ADL.

P
P

17 Jan 2018

Total posts 86

If Qantas doesn't want to fly then let the foreign carriers take up the slots until such time that Q decides its open for business again. Serving the public interest comes first and actually supports Australian economy even if Q decides to sit on sidelines.

P
P

17 Jan 2018

Total posts 86

Australia and Qantas closed for business until 2021. Australia is the worlds largest island and is behaving like it. Middle East airlines leading the way followed by Asian carriers. The impact on the Australian economy cannot be underestimated especially as China relations sour. An ANZ corridor is meaningless.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2017

Total posts 17

SQ and CX are already flying limited services to a myriad of Australian ports. UA and DL are also serving Australia albeit not daily atm. Then there are smaller airlines such as China Airlines and mainland Chinese. Qatar ain't the only one but your point about QF missing out on the action is valid.

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

@7e7 , first SQ has just recently added a passenger flight, before that cargo only. UA has never stopped flying there daily SFO passenger flight. It's averaging about 50 pax a day. It's not profitable and is underwritten by the US govt. same thing that is going to happen when DL start flying shortly. China Airlines up is flying 11 times a week, only 1 flight a week has pax and numbers are very low. Nearly all flights with pax are being underwritten by governments. To say QF is missing out on action is ridiculous!

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 63

cgoman, your comments about UA pax numbers and US govt are wildly inaccurate.

29 Mar 2018

Total posts 19

TZB88, there are occasions when passenger numbers near 100 but quite often are only around 30, not sure where you are getting your numbers from. As for govt assistance, the US govt has only given them the money with the proviso that they keep flying. Check your facts.

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 63

Incorrect. UA is DAILY SYD-SFO, and has been throughout this mess.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 10

There are always other airline to choose from. I do prefer Qantas over other international airlines normally, but one cannot be a loyal customer when there are no services being offered. Waiting until mid-2021 is out of question. Time to seriously consider switching my loyalty. Or have I just woken up?

QFF

17 May 2017

Total posts 6

Given they way the virus is now igniting in South & North America and Africa etc, perhaps AJ pre-empting a Federal Government directive that Australians will be prevented from International (non vital/holiday) travel until around mid next year?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 390

Is there any indication about code shares? Will QF flight numbers still appear on EK etc flights?

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

17 Oct 2018

Total posts 6

Yet AGAIN...where is the mention of Hong Kong. 1,400 cases in total. Surely it must be part of any bubble! #hk4ozbubble

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1000

Hasn't the mainland said no bubble with HK unless the mainland is also in the bubble?

18 Sep 2018

Total posts 4

Alan Joyce was aiming to pressure the Federal Govt and justify his redundancies- he was not aiming to provide impartial analysis on the outlook for Australia's travel sector. As I am sure he realises (though Australia's Minister for Tourism apparently does not), European and many other global travel destinations are opening up rapidly and, assuming that does not cause major spikes in infection rates, Australia/NZ will need to follow suit sooner rather than later (well before the end of 2020). Failure to do so will mean the countries least affected by the virus will be most disadvantaged by it economically in the long term.

RBC
RBC

20 Jun 2020

Total posts 43

The assumption that opening up will not cause another spike is looking pretty shaky.

QANTAS

11 Feb 2013

Total posts 2

When is Alan Joyce going to share some of his $23 Million with those about to lose their jobs?

Well, my wife and I were leaving New York in 10 days for our annual trip to Brisbane. $12,000 for two business class tickets. Now we are hoping for July 2021, but that may be a pipedream. And who knows how Qantas will accommodate untold billions in "flight credits". All this thanks to people eating bat soup in Wuhan.

30 Oct 2014

Total posts 12

Not having a non stop from SYD to JNB is a real blow to Africa bound travellers as the flight via PER is a major diversion from the Southern circle route adding close to 4 hours to the trip. Also having an A330 on the route is a major downgrade. It appears unlikely that SAA in its current state will resume operations to PER. If Qantas goes ahead with the longer routing the (generally cheaper) alternatives to JNB via SIN, HKG and the Middle East become more interesting with the option of a stop over.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 369

Now ... there are some seriously learned airline folk reading these pages (you know who you are). My concern, to which I'd appreciate constructive feedback, is what can be done to support the cabin crew, pilots and airport staff "during these challenging times" (oh I do hate that expression).

Granted, international flights out of AUS are on hold, but couldn't the airlines offer a 'special' airfare (code for cheap) for 'flights to no-where'? That is, international flights our of Australia, a loop around Auckland (not landing for now) and back to the port of departure? Could the airfare be structured to cover 'hard costs' of the flight only, thereby keeping staff and planes active, but on a negligible or break-even basis for the airline. In the construction industry we take on projects like this some times just to keep our workforce employed and to not lose skilled staff. No checked luggage in the hold should make for a lighter plane and use of less fuel?

I don't have all the answers here, obviously, but wonder whether, with tweaking, it could happen as a stop-gap measure? It'd be cool if it was ET's readership that got this up off the ground (assuming it can fly).

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 158

David can you ask QF what the plan is for rest of 2020 and 2021? It seems to be very inconsistent and confusing.

On the website it says "Because the situation is constantly evolving and may change rapidly, we have not made a decision to cancel international flights after October 2020"

But when you go on the website, there are not any international services into the future. Can't even book Emirates codeshare (only thing that comes up is BA, CX etc. on points bookings).

I have a booking in 2021, and as it stands I cannot change my booking to another flight or book a new flight as there are no flights on sale, and I cannot cancel my booking without a penalty.

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 93

The international flight cancellation date from QF appears to be incrementally pushing out. Sort of makes sense that they would be trying to spread the rush of refunds over a longer peiod to help with cashflow. I have a booking to USA in Dec20 on A380 First, I but don't expect to see a QF First product in the air before mid next year at earliest.


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