Australian airline Qantas expects international flights to the US, UK and parts of Asia to resume by Christmas, CEO Alan Joyce said on Thursday.
Since March last year, Australia has closed its borders to most foreign visitors and has banned residents from leaving the country unless they have a valid reason.
“We know there is tremendous demand. People don’t want another Christmas isolated from their families, let alone internationally, however [also] in Australia, “Joyce said on CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia.
An increase in local Covid-19 cases in recent months has forced Australian states and territories to tighten restrictions, including restrictions on interstate travel and stay-at-home advice in high-risk areas.
Joyce said Qantas plans its operations on the assumption that Australia’s two most populous states – New South Wales and Victoria – will lift most of their border restrictions to the rest of the country by December 1.
This would be followed by the assumption that international border restrictions will be relaxed if more Australians are vaccinated. “And by Christmas, markets like Singapore, Great Britain, Japan and the USA will also open …” he added.
Qantas has not killed any passengers since the beginning of the “jet era” in the 1950s.
Scott Barbour | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Vaccines are crucial
Australia’s vaccination rates are also rising after a slow rollout at the beginning.
Information compiled by the online publication Our World In Data showed that almost 25% of the population were fully vaccinated as of August 24, compared with just under 6% at the end of June. Australian government data showed that as of Wednesday, 32.3% of those over 16 – or around 6.6 million people – were fully vaccinated.
The Australian government wants 70 to 80 percent of its population to be fully vaccinated before loosening international border restrictions. This means that gradually international entries and exits to and from so-called “safe” countries will be allowed and the requirements for fully vaccinated visitors coming to Australia will be reduced.
“The government has said they think this is a sensible plan. They don’t have a crystal ball but they think this is likely to happen, ”Joyce said, adding that he expects Qantas to fire out of all cylinders after the borders reopen.
Qantas does not expect international routes to countries with lower vaccination rates – such as Indonesia, South Africa or the Philippines – to begin until April next year at the earliest.
No more layoffs
Like most airlines and travel companies around the world, Qantas took a hit when the coronavirus pandemic resulted in an almost complete collapse in demand for air travel.
As part of restructuring efforts last year, the airline had to lay off nearly 10,000 people out of a total workforce of around 32,000 before the pandemic, Joyce told CNBC.
We believe that is all it takes [layoffs] because the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel.
Managing Director, Qantas
“It was heartbreaking to see a lot of great people leaving, but it was necessary to restructure the business so it could recover from Covid,” he said.
“We believe it is no longer necessary because the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel,” he added when asked if Qantas could possibly fire more people.
Yet more than 8,000 Qantas employees, mostly from international operations, have been laid off – that is, as long as they remain employed, they will not be paid until operations resume.
The airline reported earnings on Thursday for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
- Statutory after-tax loss of 1.73 billion Australian dollars (1.25 billion US dollars) was lower than the previous year’s reported loss of 1.96 billion Australian dollars.
- Consolidated sales were A $ 5.93 billion, 58% less than last year.
Qantas stock rose 3.29% on the back of earnings reports on Thursday.
Joyce told CNBC that Qantas expects to lose A $ 20 billion in revenue by the end of this year due to the pandemic.