When Will Qantas Resume International Flights?

The most exciting flight out of Qantas in recent times was its eight and a half hour scenic ‘flight to nowhere.’ However, when will the carrier actually be operating flights of this length to an actual destination outside of Australia’s borders? Let’s find out.

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150 passengers took a scenic flight to nowhere earlier this month. Photo: Getty Images

Dependent on Australian border policy

If Qantas could resume international flights tomorrow – it might just jump at the chance. But of course, the decision is not up to the airline itself. As is the situation worldwide, whether or not airlines can operate international flights depends on government policy.

Also, while some carriers are benefiting from various ‘travel corridors’ and ‘bubbles,’ others are suffering due to the strict policies of their respective governments. While most of these decisions can be justified as health precautions, it must be frustrating for affected carriers to be stuck on the sidelines.

Qantas 787
Qantas’ chief executive is looking at the end of 2021 for flights to the US and UK. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

It should be noted that ‘international’ regional travel is allowed on a restricted basis at the moment. This takes the form of a one-way “Safe Travel Zone,” otherwise referred to as a Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble. In its current form, travel is taking place between New Zealand and the Australian state of New South Wales, as well as its Northern Territory.

A year away for US and UK

Speaking at the company’s AGM in Sydney yesterday, Qantas Group chief executive said the following:

“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.” -Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO via ABC News (Australia)

With governments generally making decisions based on the epidemiological situations of other countries, the US and the UK are much less likely to see international travel from Australia for quite some time. It is believed that the United States is going through its third wave, while the United Kingdom is seeing a second wave that is much more significant than its first.

Qantas departure terminal at Melbourne
A general view shows the empty Qantas departure terminal at Melbourne Airport. Photo: Getty Images

Asian travel likely to come sooner

ABC News notes that Australia’s Prime Minister is open to the idea of an easing of restrictions for certain countries that have their coronavirus situations under control. PM Scott Morrison said that international arrivals from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and countries in the Pacific could perhaps avoid quarantine.

“Both Qantas and Jetstar are keeping a close eye on new markets that might open up as a result of these bubbles — including places that weren’t part of our pre-COVID network…By early next year, we may find that Korea, Taiwan and various islands in the Pacific are top Qantas destinations while we wait for our core international markets like the US and UK to re-open.” -Richard Goyder, Qantas chairman

So when will international flights resume?

To answer the question with all the information above, Qantas could resume international flights (beyond the trans-Tasman bubble) as early as next year. Although it has cut international flights from its schedule through to March 31st, the airline would likely welcome an early, surprise easing of restrictions and the formation of a selective bubble.

Of course, it all depends on the COVID-19 situation at each possible destination as well as within Australia’s borders.

What’s your prediction for Qantas resuming international services? Give us your best guess in the comments.