Qantas and Virgin Australia are expected to cut more domestic flights this week as individual states close their borders or move into a 'lockdown mode' of all non-essential activities.
Having already slashed domestic capacity by between 50-60%, with many routes closed and others seeing far fewer flights, a second swing of the scythe by Qantas and Virgin Australia could potentially turn networks which usually criss-cross and connect the country into a skeleton service. Additional job losses among ground staff, pilots and cabin crew would follow.
The cuts, driven in parallel by reduced demand and the need to conserve cash in this revenue-starved state, could also see the Federal Government ramp up its airline rescue package to over $1 billion, adding a second tranche of support beyond the initial $715 million unlocked last week in waived fees on fuel, services and security.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised Australians to avoid all non-essential domestic travel, using similar language which presaged the closure of our international borders.
States clamp down
Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory will effectively close their borders on Tuesday March 24 by imposing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for anyone arriving in the state, with Queensland to follow at midnight Wednesday. They join Tasmania, where travel bans began on Saturday March 21.
State-wide shutdowns of NSW and Victoria, along with the ACT, will encompass all "non-essential services" – with exemptions including aupermarkets and convenience stores, banks, pharmacies and petrol stations.
Qantas said it would "continue to adjust Qantas and Jetstar services as needed in light of the latest advice and restrictions from the federal, state and territory governments on non-essential travel", while Virgin Australia said it "expects a material reduction in its domestic capacity."
Qantas and Virgin have already begun parking jets considered surplus to their slimmed-down domestic networks, while Qantas will also close many Qantas Clubs and all of its elite Chairman's Lounges in light of reduced passenger numbers.