Despite failing to take off this year, Qantas remains optimistic a two-way travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand will finally get underway. In an interview this week, Qantas boss Alan Joyce said he was hopeful that by early 2021 a two-way travel bubble would be up and running.
Alan Joyce’s comments on the subject were part of a wide-ranging Aviation Week Network interview earlier this week.
“We’re still hopeful that we’ll get a two-way travel bubble with New Zealand.
“I think the issue, from our understanding of it, is that the New Zealand side is waiting for Australia to resolve its own border issues.
“We think that’s the first stepping stone to get these things to happen.
“We’re hopeful in the New Year that we’ll see New Zealand opening up both ways.”
An Australia New Zealand travel bubble has failed to fire up
There’s been talk of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand since May. But outbreaks in both countries have seen the respective governments balk at relaxing restrictions.
Australia’s hodgepodge of constantly changing internal border restrictions haven’t helped matters, something Alan Joyce has continually attacked.
Australia is now allowing quarantine-free travel into some states from certain parts of New Zealand. But New Zealand has not reciprocated, and the current state of affairs has failed to fire up trans-Tasman travel.
As Alan Joyce notes, given the extremely low infection rates on both sides of the Tasman Sea, opening up travel across the Tasman is in everyone’s interests.
“A large part of New Zealand’s economy depends on tourism, and the largest tourism market into New Zealand are Australians.
“Vice versa, New Zealand is the second-largest tourism market into Australia, so it’s a huge market and could represent the equivalent of 25% of our domestic operations. It’s a lot of aircraft back up in the air if we can get it back up and running.”
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
A stepping stone to other travel bubbles
Mr Joyce sees a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand as a stepping stone to ramping up international flights again at Qantas. He has a fairly clear idea of where Qantas is likely to roll out its first sequence of international flights.
“We’re also hopeful that once you get the New Zealand bubble established, then other bubbles could open up. The (Australian) Government is talking about Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.
“It will be a great opportunity for us to start re-activating our international fleet.”
As the Qantas CEO notes, it’s been a while since a Qantas plane regularly flew to airports in either South Korea or Taiwan. But he says 2020 has forced Qantas to experiment with where it flies and cites the initial success of some new local routes Qantas has opened because they had few other options.
“As a former network planner, I think it is exciting.
“The old demand models are not valid. People will still support routes where they can actually travel, and they will make their travel plans based on what’s available.
“We haven’t flown to Korea and Taiwan in decades. But we would put services back on if they did open a two-way bubble.”
Mr Joyce argues many people are primed to travel, and they’ll take what’s available destination wise. That’s not a model that applies to business travel, but the Qantas CEO says there’s huge pent-up demand from leisure travelers, and it’s these people who are hoping on his planes right now. It’s this market that will initially get on those first international flights, be it New Zealand or elsewhere.