Slow jabs will delay travel: Qantas

 

Qantas boss Alan Joyce has conceded the resumption of international travel could happen later than October 31 in response to the blowout in the federal government's vaccination timeline.

The airline pushed back its return to international flights from July to late October in February, based on the assumption the majority of Australians would be vaccinated by then.

Speaking to the CAPA Centre for Aviation on Wednesday, Mr Joyce said he was thankful for Australia's position in the COVID crisis, and to the state and federal leaders "who helped us get there".

But he revealed the government had been unable to provide a clear picture of when borders would reopen.

"The government have said to us, they can't give us that date with certainty today because there's a lot of things it depends on - how effective the vaccine is against stopping transmission, what the rollout looks like, what proportion of the population will have vaccinated, what the success of the other countries is going to look like," said Mr Joyce.

"If it happens earlier, we can adapt or if it happens later, and it could happen later we just adapt and use it."

He pointed to the example of New Zealand and the trans-Tasman bubble which had been expected to start in July and was now opening on April 19.

"That's ahead of our forecast despite the delay of vaccinations," Mr Joyce said.

"So this could open up bubble by bubble, market by market depending on what the (vaccination) framework looks like."

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Picture: Brendan Radke
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Picture: Brendan Radke

 

He revealed Qantas was still planning for everything to open at the end of October, in terms of "training people and activating aircraft".

By the time international travel did open up, Mr Joyce was confident Qantas would be well on the road to recovery, after losing $11bn in revenue last year and increasing debt by $2.5bn.

Although the international business was burning through $5m a week, the domestic business was generating a positive cash flow, he said.

"For some time Qantas was treading water and now we're starting to swim towards shore," he said.

 

"Hopefully when international opens up we've got a speedboat to go with towards the shore."

The prospect of additional competition from the likes of Regional Express (Rex) or even a foreign carrier entering the domestic market did not phase Mr Joyce, who said "when the Qantas Group plays its best game, it always wins".

While the corporate market was still to return to pre-COVID levels, leisure and the FIFO markets had rebounded strongly.

It was expected to take significantly longer for the international travel market to get back to 2019 levels with Mr Joyce predicting the airline's fleet of A380s would remain in mothballs until 2024.

But he was adamant all 12 of the superjumbos would be reactivated "once demand was there".

 

"We spent a lot of money on them and have written down right in our roots," Mr Joyce said.

The future of Project Sunrise - the airline's proposed ultra long range flights between the east coast of Australia and cities like New York, London and Paris - was also simply "on hold" and not killed off, he said.

"We think this is really strategic for us, in Qantas's history. Every decade Qantas has made a big strategic bet and they have paid off over 100-years," he said.

"In the 2000s it was Jetstsar. In the 2010s it was Loyalty and I think that the 2020s' big strategic move is going to be Sunrise."

Originally published as Slow jabs will delay travel: Qantas



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