Qantas has pushed back its return to overseas flights by a further four months, with its international network unlikely to be fully restored until 2024 at the earliest.
The announcement was made on Thursday as the Qantas Group reported a staggering $1 billion loss in its half-year trading update.
The company said Qantas and Jetstar international flights would make a comeback from October 31, instead of July, as it previously forecast.
Most of Qantas’ international routes would resume on that date, including flights to London, Singapore and Los Angeles.
Three routes – New York, Santiago and Osaka – will return at a later date, with Qantas passengers able to fly to those cities with codeshare flights until then.
However flights to New Zealand are likely to increase from July as Australia maintains its travel bubble arrangement with its trans-Tasman neighbour.
In addition, Jetstar would resume flights to all 13 of its international destinations from October 31.
Qantas had for months projected a mid-2021 resumption of international travel but has adjusted the timeline in sync with the expected completion of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve updated our assumptions on international travel restarting.
Since the start of this year, we’ve seen a huge surge in COVID cases around the world, new strains emerging and a shift from ‘herd immunity’ as the threshold for opening borders to ‘fully vaccinated’,” Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce said on Thursday.
“As a result, we’re now planning for international travel to restart at the end of October this year, in line with the date for Australia’s vaccine rollout to be effectively complete.
“We’re still targeting July for a material increase in New Zealand flights. We’re in close consultation with government, and if things change, so will our dates.
“But with the vaccine rollout already underway, we’re on the right track.”
Qantas said its current international flying capacity was around 8 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels, which now consisted of repatriation flights and services to New Zealand.
The company does not expect international flights to see much of an increase in the second half of 2021, and its international network is not expected to be fully restored until 2024 at least.
However, it is looking towards a “significant increase” in flights to New Zealand from July 1.
Qantas also confirmed all its Airbus A380 fleet would remain grounded until June 30, 2023 at the earliest.
The airline has delayed a decision about whether to order new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, capable of flying ultra-long haul flights.