Qantas Bouncing Back But CEO Warns Of Further Financial Losses

Qantas continues to recover from the travel downturn. On Thursday morning, the Qantas Group said their domestic division is roaring back to pre-downturn capacity levels, and the airline continues to target late October as the resumption date for most of their international flights.

Qantas is recovering from the travel downturn. Photo: Qantas

Domestic travel recovering nicely at Qantas

In an update released on Thursday, Qantas said domestic capacity had increased beyond previous estimates to reach 90% of pre-downturn levels this quarter. Low-cost subsidiary Jetstar is expected to exceed 100% due to strong leisure demand.

“We’re now seeing really positive signs of sustained recovery,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. “This is the longest run of relative stability we’ve had with domestic borders for over a year, and it’s reflected in the strong travel demand.”

In further good news, the airline says all Qantas and Jetstar domestic crew are now back at work. Across this quarter, Qantas expects to have 90% of its planes in the air. During the worst of the travel downturn, only 25% of Qantas’ planes were flying. Between them, Qantas and Jetstar have all their Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A320/A321 aircraft flying.

In another snippet of interesting fleet news, Jetstar will roll out its Dreamliners on domestic routes from mid-year. Jetstar will deploy up to five of its Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Those planes will fly to Cairns and the Gold Coast from both Sydney and Melbourne. Jetstar will also deploy six Airbus A320 aircraft on loan from Jetstar Japan on Australian domestic leisure routes.

What’s not flying? A handful of Jetstar’s 787-8s will stay grounded, along with some Qantas A330s and the dozen-strong Qantas A380 fleet. All of Qantas’ distinctive Dreamliners are back flying.

Jetstar is putting its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners onto selected domestic routes from mid-year. Photo: Jetstar

Qantas flags another big loss this financial year

While Alan Joyce is pleased with the recovery, he’s keen to temper expectations that all is well at Qantas. The CEO is warning of another big loss this financial year.

“It’s important to keep this uptick in perspective,” Mr Joyce says. “We are still facing a massive financial loss this year, which will be the second one in a row. We’ve lost more than AU$11 billion in revenue since the pandemic started, and that number will keep growing until international travel recovers.

“We’ve used debt and shareholder equity to get through to this point, and our people have had the benefit of direct government support, which continues for those still stood down due to international border closures.

“As the recent lockdown in Brisbane showed, airlines and many other sectors remain vulnerable to snap travel restrictions until Australia’s vaccination rollout is complete.”

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The Qantas boss Alan Joyce warns of further financial losses this year. Photo: Getty Images

Qantas sticks with October time for international flights resuming

As far as international borders and international travel goes, Alan Joyce is sticking to his October timeline. That’s despite Australia having issues with its vaccination rollout. However, Mr Joyce does say Qantas has the “flexibility” to adjust schedules as required. There’s no word on bringing the A380s back before 2023.

The travel bubble with New Zealand starts on Monday, and Qantas is getting considerable uplift from that. Between Qantas and Jetstar, around 120 return flights a week will operate across the Tasman Sea. Qantas says demand is stronger out of Australia than New Zealand, with capacity adjusted to reflect demand patterns.

The airline has added more flights from late May to fill gaps left in the market and meet expected demand over the ski season. In good news for folks heading to New Zealand, the Qantas First lounges are re-opening at Sydney and Melbourne Airports (along with the swish business lounge in Brisbane). Fingers crossed the delicious fairy floss pav is back on the menu.