Qantas and Jetstar have announced plans to restart regular international passenger flights from 31 October 2021, a four month extension from the group’s previous estimate of July, which had been in place since mid-2020. The extension follows government criticism of the previous date, with Deputy PM Michael McCormack delivering a stinging blow in January, pointing out “Decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian government.”
Qantas says the new schedule was drafted in “close consultation with the federal government” around the reopening of borders, while also aligning with the expected completion of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The airline is also assessing the use of digital health pass apps to help support COVID-safe international travel. The CommonPass and IATA Travel Pass apps are being trialled on the Qantas’ international repatriation flights.
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International flights to resume at reduced capacity
Qantas does not expect international passenger capacity to fully recover until 2024. When international flights resume, we will see reduced capacity and frequency compared to pre-COVID levels. This means Qantas’s 12-strong fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft with First Class suites at the pointy end may sit idle while the smaller and more fuel-efficient Boeing 787’s take to the skies.
Qantas plans to operate flights to 22 of its 25 pre-COVID international destinations from 31 October 2021, including Los Angeles, London, Singapore and Johannesburg.
Initially, the airline won’t resume direct flights to New York, Santiago and Osaka, although Qantas remains committed to operating services to these destinations. In the meantime, travellers will be able to travel to these destinations on codeshare or oneworld flights with partner airlines.
Jetstar plans to resume flights to all of its 13 international destinations with frequencies adjusted in line with the projected recovery of international flying.
Qantas and Jetstar are planning for a significant increase in Trans-Tasman flights to and from New Zealand from 1 July 2021. Additionally, the group says they have the ability to respond to travel bubbles that may open.
International flight flexibility
Qantas has updated its Fly Flexible booking policy to cover international flights booked up until April 2021. However, we may see an extension to this date as international travel gains momentum.
The policy allows for unlimited fee-free date changes, although fare differences will still apply. Customers will be able to change their flight date to any flight available for sale at the time, up to 355 days in advance.
Qantas has also extended credit vouchers to enable travel until 31 December 2023 on domestic or international flights, with Jetstar doing the same for vouchers issued due to COVID-19 disruptions.