Qantas is pushing back its planned resumption of international services until late October 2021. This is four months later than the previously announced restart date of July 1. That date was widely regarded as overly ambitious. Now, as Qantas unveils its half-yearly financial results, the airline confirmed on Thursday most international flights would remain off the books for another eight months.
Whereas Qantas had flagged a full resumption of international flights from July, the airline is now adopting a more cautious tone.
“Capacity will be lower than pre-COVID levels,” said Qantas in a statement today. “Frequencies and aircraft type deployed on each route in line with the projected recovery of international flying. International capacity is not expected to fully recover until 2024.”
The exception is New Zealand. With the imminent rollout of a two-way travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand, Qantas expects to step up Trans-Tasman flying from mid-2020.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
No flights to New York, Santiago, or Osaka yet
While Qantas says it “remains committed” to New York, Santiago and Osaka, those flights won’t resume in October. However, flights to 25 pre-COVID international destinations, including Los Angeles, London, Singapore, and Johannesburg, will start running from October 31.
Qantas says it’s October date lines up with the expected timeframe for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination in Australia. The airline also notes it is looking at using digital health pass apps to facilitate the resumption of international travel. This follows local competitor Air New Zealand announcing they will trial the IATA Travel Pass in April.
Jetstar also plans to resume international flights
It’s not just the mainline Qantas international fleet looking to get back into the air in October. Low-cost subsidiary Jetstar is also planning to resume international flights then. That news will come as a relief to regular Jetstar destinations highly dependant on tourism. In 2020, Jetstar’s brand new service between Seoul and the Gold Coast ended just weeks after it began.
The Qantas Group says Jetstar will resume flying to all 13 of its regular international destinations from October 31. However, they note frequencies will be adjusted to suit demand.
Qantas improves flexibility for international tickets
Offsetting the news Qantas has pushed back the timeline to resume its international flights, the airline also announced increased ticket flexibility to allow customers to book “with confidence.”
Many people panned Qantas’ planned July resumption date as a cash grab. Some previous passengers cited previous difficulties extracting refunds from Qantas for canceled flights. No matter how keen to travel, most travelers knew better than to pay for flights that were unlikely to operate.
In fairness to Qantas, increased ticket flexibility acknowledges this. The airline has been generous with fee-free changes on domestic and Trans-Tasman for a while. Now, the generosity extends to international flight bookings.
“Qantas’ updated Fly Flexible policy (previously only available for domestic and Trans-Tasman flights) now applies to international flights booked from today until at least the end of April 2021,” today’s Qantas statement says.
“The flight date can be changed to any available for sale at the time (up to 355 days in advance). Qantas will waive the change fee however a fare difference may apply.
“Qantas has also extended credit vouchers to enable travel until 31 December 2023 on domestic or international flights, with Jetstar doing the same for vouchers issued due to COVID-19 disruptions.”
What do you think? Is Qantas’ new start date for international services realistic? Is the increased flexibility with tickets temptation enough to buy one? Post a comment and let us know.