National carrier Qantas says ongoing state border restrictions are stifling the economic recovery. Picture: David Clark
National carrier Qantas says ongoing state border restrictions are stifling the economic recovery. Picture: David Clark

Flights to UK, US unlikely for another year

Qantas says European and North American flights will be out of action until the "end of 2021", but the national carrier is hopeful travel bubbles with certain Asian and South Pacific countries will start in the near future.

At its annual general meeting, chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline was looking for safe international travel routes to Japan, parts of South East Asia and the South Pacific.

Mr Joyce said regular UK and US services remained impossible while both regions struggled to contain the virus and there was no vaccine readily available.

"For some of our big destination like the United States and the UK, it's going to need a vaccine given the high prevalence of the virus in both of those locations," Mr Joyce said.

"But we are getting more and more confident about the opportunities and the potential for a vaccine in helping getting those operations up by potentially by the end of 2021."

 

Mr Joyce said the pandemic had presented an opportunity to look at potential new domestic and international routes that had never been part of Qantas's travel network, including direct flights to South Korea and Taiwan.

"With most international travel off limits for a while, we're expecting to see a boom in domestic tourism once more borders open up," Mr Joyce said.

"And when international travel does eventually return, our market share is expected to grow too, as overseas carriers take a conservative approach to capacity and focus on opportunities closer to their own home markets."

Qantas also said ongoing state border restrictions were delaying Australia's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Pointing the finger at the Queensland and West Australian governments, Mr Joyce said harsh closures by both states had cost the airline $100 million in lost earnings and stifled the recovery of the domestic travel market.

Mr Joyce said Qantas was expecting domestic travel capacity to be operating at 60 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels, however continued border closures meant capacity was operating at 30 per cent compared to October 2019.

Pointing the finger at the Queensland and West Australian governments, Mr Joyce said harsh closures by both states had cost the airline $100 million in lost earnings. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP
Pointing the finger at the Queensland and West Australian governments, Mr Joyce said harsh closures by both states had cost the airline $100 million in lost earnings. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

 

"We are dealing with the biggest crisis that global aviation has ever faced," Mr Joyce said.

"The unexpected closure of several domestic borders in July has meant that our recovery has been delayed."

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder also noted the "frustrating inertia" around Queensland and WA's stubborn closures.

"This inertia doesn't seem to be based on the actual health risk and seems to ignore the broader economic and social risk involved in staying shut," Mr Goyder said.

Mr Joyce said Qantas will be a structurally different company after the pandemic, with the airline looking to implement $15 billion of cost cutting measures over the next three years.

Part of its cost reduction is to look at the group's current property portfolio and a potential move of its headquarters which is currently based in Sydney.

"We all know the only antidote when you are faced with less revenue is to lower costs," Mr Joyce said.

The airline also confirmed approximately 18,000 of its employees remain stood down from work, due to stifled travel markets.

 

 

 

Originally published as Flights to UK, US unlikely for another year


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