Qantas prepares for gradual opening of international borders by Xmas

Qantas is planning for both international and domestic borders to open by December if the nation’s current vaccine rollout continues at the current pace.

Australia is set to reach 80 per cent vaccination in its adult population by December, according to the carrier’s forecasts resulting in a “gradual” relaxation of the current international border closure and wider opening of domestic borders.

From mid-December, Qantas and Jetstar will reinstate international schedules to low-risk countries including Singapore, the US, Japan, the UK, Canada and Fiji.

A re-start of the currently paused trans-Tasman travel bubble is also predicted in December.

Services to higher risk destinations including Bali, Bangkok, Manila and Johannesburg are slated to restart in April 2022.

The announcement comes despite the federal government saying international borders would remain shut until mid-2022.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the organisation was now “leaner and more efficient” and therefore “able to move quickly when borders open and close”.

“When Australia reaches those critical vaccination targets later this year and the likelihood of future lockdowns and border closures reduces, we expect to see a surge in domestic travel demand and a gradual return of international travel,” he said.

“It’s obviously up to government exactly how and when our international borders re-open, but with Australia on track to meet the 80 per cent trigger agreed by National Cabinet by the end of the year, we need to plan ahead for what is a complex restart process.

“We can adjust our plans if the circumstances change, which we’ve already had to do several times during this pandemic.

“Some people might say we’re being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we’re ready.”

The announcement came as Qantas posted a $1.73 billion loss, slightly down on last year’s almost $2 billion loss.

The pandemic has cost the carrier around $16 billion in lost revenues over the past two financial years, with that set to rise to $20 billion by the end of this calendar year.

“This loss shows the impact that a full year of closed international borders and more than 330 days of domestic travel restrictions had on the national carrier,” Joyce said.

“The trading conditions have frankly been diabolical.”