Vaccine delays hamper Qantas plans for international flights in October

The delays in a national Covid vaccine rollout have forced Qantas to rethink its plans for the return of international travel in October.

Qantas chief Alan Joyce had earmarked a restart for international services from October 31 based on the assumption that the majority of Australians would be vaccinated by that date.

However, the Federal Government’s u-turn on the AstraZeneca vaccine and a mismanaged vaccine rollout has thrown any timelines into total disarray. To date only 1,295,672 Australians have received a jab.

“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,” Joyce told the CAPA Centre for Aviation.

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

But Joyce said the opening of a trans-Tasman travel bubble on April 19 may be the start of a slow return to some international travel “bubble by bubble, market by market”.

Joyce also warned that other countries were taking the lead in reopening their international borders.

“We see other countries starting to open up and I think there is a real danger to our economy, toward tourism and business travel that we are laggers here and are falling behind the rest of the world,” he said.

“All the good work that was done supressing Covid [in Australia] will disappear because we will fall behind economically.”

On a more positive note, Qantas says it is back to around 90 per cent of their pre-pandemic levels on domestic routes.