Qantas expects a “sustained recovery”, with the airline to return to 90 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic capacity by mid-year, and has made positive noises over the resumption of international travel.
The airline on Thursday painted a rosier picture than first thought following a positive uptake of the government’s half-price ticket scheme and big travel numbers over the Easter break.
Qantas said it now expected to return to 90 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic capacity by mid-year, up 10 ten per cent, provided there were no further border closures.
But chief executive Alan Joyce conceded the March outbreak in Brisbane showed the airline was still vulnerable to snap lockdowns, warning it is “important to keep this uptick in perspective”.
“We’re now seeing really positive signs of sustained recovery,” he said.
“This is the longest run of relative stability we’ve had with domestic borders for over a year and it’s reflected in the strong travel demand.”
Qantas’s budget airliner Jetstar was expected to fly at above 100 per cent by mid-year.
The airline revealed all domestic crew were now back at work, while corporate travel had returned to 65 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels.
But with the airline still facing plummeting revenues in the wake of the pandemic, Mr Joyce heralded the New Zealand travel bubble as “great news” for its recovery.
“The increased domestic flying and resumption of flights across the Tasman are also helping get more of our people back to work,” he said.
The government’s already sluggish vaccine rollout was dented last week by advice against using the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 50 whenever possible.
Mr Joyce said the company was still working on the assumption international flights would resume in late 2021 but said vaccine progress was “key” to those plans.
“While there have clearly been some speed bumps with the vaccine rollout, we are still planning for international flights to resume in late October. We remain in regular dialogue with the government,” he said.
The Qantas chief executive later reiterated his call for a proof-of-vaccination requirement for international travellers.
Mr Joyce first flagged the measure in December and said it was already being implemented across the world.
“We’re regarded as the safest airliner in the world and, as a consequence of that, we have a duty of care to our people, we have a duty of care to our passengers,” he said.
“We do think it should be a requirement that people are vaccinated on our aircraft to minimise the risk to people travelling.”
Mr Joyce claimed the policy was key to restoring confidence among travellers and had a 89 per cent approval rating among Qantas’s frequent flyers.