Qantas pushes back expected restart of international travel to October

Qantas aims to fly to 22 overseas cities including Los Angeles, London and Johannesburg from Oct 31. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Qantas Airways laid out an ambitious plan to resume flights to most international destinations from late October, betting that vaccine rollouts will help revive the world's shattered aviation industry.

Qantas aims to fly to 22 overseas cities including Los Angeles, London and Johannesburg from Oct 31, it said in a statement on Thursday (Feb 25). New York is excluded from the initial plan. Jetstar, Qantas's low-cost airline, will resume flights to all of its 13 international destinations at the same time.

The planned resumption of global travel is four months later than the carrier anticipated last year, though it broadly aligns with the date by which Australia plans to complete its vaccination program. Like airlines worldwide, its attempts to fly even limited schedules have been repeatedly stymied by snap border closures, inside Australia and overseas.

"None of us knew just how big an impact Covid would have on the world, or on aviation," Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said. "It's clearly worse than anyone expected."

Hopes for a vaccine-inspired travel recovery have receded as super-infectious coronavirus variants trigger tougher quarantines for arriving passengers. So far, the aviation industry's proposal for test or vaccine certificates to replace mandatory isolations hasn't gained traction with governments.

A full international recovery isn't expected until 2024, Qantas said.

Qantas is cutting at least 8,500 jobs and scything costs as part of a three-year plan to survive aviation's biggest-ever crisis.

Covid-19 travel restrictions drove Qantas to an underlying pretax loss of A$1.03 billion (S$1.07 billion) in the six months ended December from a profit of A$771 million a year earlier.

Joyce's turnaround plan for Qantas involves cutting A$15 billion in costs over three years.

The airline has grounded its entire fleet of 12 giant Airbus A380s for at least three years, and has deferred a backlog of other aircraft deliveries.

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