Overseas travel won’t happen until mid 2021: Qantas
Qantas has announced a drastic three-year plan to ensure the airline's survival during the coronavirus crisis, will lead to a massive reduction in domestic flights as well as an indefinite grounding of its long haul service.
The strategy reveals travelling will continue to be significantly hampered for Australians - domestic travel will operate at nearly half its capacity from next month but overseas trips won't return until the middle of next year.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the much-hyped "travel bubble" with New Zealand has progressed but access was unlikely until July 2021.
He pleaded with the states to open borders to allow domestic tourism to tick over and contribute to the nation's struggling economy.
A recent sale from Qantas' budget carrier Jetstar revealed the huge pent-up demand for Aussies desperate to get out and travel.
During last week's four-day sale it sold 200 tickets a minute, twice as much as previous promotions.
"There are some green shoots domestically," Mr Joyce told reporters this morning.
"We're planning to be back to 40 per cent of our pre-crisis domestic flying during July and hopefully more in the months that follow. But we'll be living with COVID for some time and recent events show we can't take a low infection rate for granted.
"(For) international, we have to be realistic about it and in staying with what's happening in the rest of the globe, it is probably an extended period of time before we'll open up those borders.
"We're parking the A380 for at least three years because they don't have any use, we think, during this period of time."
Mr Joyce cited the expectation from the industry's peak body, the IATA, that it will take more than three years for global travel to return to pre-coronavirus levels.
"That means all airlines - including Qantas - must take action now," the airline's chief said.
"We have to position ourselves for several years where revenues will be much lower. And that means becoming a smaller airline in the short term."
Australian and International Pilots' Association president Mark Sedgwick said the delay for overseas travel was expected but still a significant blow.
"The fact that it might not occur in Qantas Group till mid-next year is certainly devastating news to pilots today," he told the ABC.
The Qantas announcement follows last week's update from the Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham it was "more likely" Australians will be banned from overseas travel until 2021.
"I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes in suppressing the spread of COVID to Australia and New Zealand, and in working … with those countries to find safe pathways to deal with essential business travel that helps to contribute to jobs across our economies,'' he said.
"But I do, sadly, think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off, just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first."
Asked if he was really talking about a travel ban until 2021, Senator Birmingham replied, "Honestly, I think that is more likely the case."
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT BORDER RESTRICTIONS?
Currently, the only states whose borders are open to all Australians are those of NSW and Victoria.
All other state and territory borders are either completely closed, or open only to a limited number of other jurisdictions:
• Queensland: Queensland's border has been shut to all non-essential interstate travellers since late March. After a fair amount of debate between Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian, Queensland announced it would reopen its border to all interstate travellers from July 10.
• South Australia: South Australia introduced a "travel bubble" last week - meaning that interstate arrivals from Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory won't be expected to quarantine for 14 days when they enter SA. The state's border will reopen to NSW and Victoria from July 20.
• Western Australia: Interstate travellers have largely been considered a risk to WA's response to COVID-19, Premier Mark McGowan has maintained. Health Minister Roger Cook said last week there were "advanced discussions" about either releasing a road map or offering an indicative date to open the border, but for now, the state remains closed to the rest of the nation.
• Tasmania: Tasmania's borders are currently closed to interstate travellers. While experts have called on the state to reopen in a way similar to SA (only to states considered low risk), Premier Peter Gutwein will announce a reopening date on June 26, and it's expected to be in late July.
• Northern Territory: While life in the Top End is well on its way back to normal after successfully combating the coronavirus outbreak, the NT's border has been closed to interstate travellers since early in the pandemic. The Government will reopen the border to all states on July 17.
Originally published as Bad news for Aussie travellers