International flights delayed as Qantas posts first half loss of $1.47bn

Qantas has posted a $1.47 billion statutory loss for the first half of the 2021 financial year, prompting the carrier to delay the expected resumption of international flights.

The loss, while not surprising, was exacerbated by the domestic border closures following Victoria’s second Covid wave, which resulted in a 70 per cent plunge in domestic travel.

“When we had the opportunity to fly domestically we saw significant pent up travel demand and generated positive cash flow,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

“Qantas Loyalty still had significant income because the program has evolved to the stage where the vast majority of points are earned from activity on the ground.

“Qantas Freight had a record result and has been a natural hedge to the lack of international passenger flying which has created a shortage of cargo space globally.”

Qantas has also pushed back the expected resumption of international flights by four months to October, but hopes to increase domestic capacity to 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels by mid-year.

“We’ve had very positive conversations this week with several Premiers and Chief Ministers about how to restore confidence in borders as quickly as the health advice allows,” Joyce said.

“For instance, is there a stage in the vaccine rollout where National Cabinet could declare that the need to resort to domestic border closures is virtually gone? Could we reach that point as soon as April?

“We think an assurance like that is worth pursuing – because it would accelerate the recovery in key parts of the economy and give many businesses, not to mention friends and families, instant certainty.”

Joyce noted the vaccine rollout, saying it created “more certainty”.

“More certainty that domestic borders will stay open because frontline and quarantine workers will be vaccinated in a number of weeks,” he said.

“And more certainty that international borders can open when the nationwide rollout is effectively complete by the end of October.”