(Jan 5): Qantas Airways Ltd. has started taking bookings for international flights from July 1 in a perhaps optimistic view that by then, vaccinations will have begun to curb the spread of the coronavirus and travel demand will pick up.
Ticket sales for Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, which had been set to start in March, have been pushed back to July, while other destinations like London have been brought forward from October, Australia’s national carrier said Tuesday. New Zealand is the only overseas destination to which Qantas is currently flying.
“Recently we have aligned the selling of our international services to reflect our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021,” Qantas said. “We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing Covid-19 situation.”
Although countries including Singapore, China, Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. have started vaccinating their populations, Australia is yet to authorize a Covid jab and doesn’t plan to offer a shot until March. The country canceled a local vaccine development last month after trials showed it could interfere with HIV diagnoses.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has said that a vaccine will be necessary for quarantine-free travel to resume to the U.S. and the U.K., where infections are surging. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a third national lockdown in England starting from Monday night until mid-February on fears the National Health Service will be overwhelmed.
A hankering for travel among Australians has meant Qantas has been busy on the home front. In December, Qantas said it expects to fly the vast majority of its normal domestic schedule in the first quarter after major state borders reopen. By June, the airline should be generating enough cash to begin repairing its balance sheet.
Authorities do at least appear to be top of controlling virus clusters in Australia’s two-most populous states, with New South Wales on Tuesday recording four new locally acquired cases from the day before, while Victoria had three.
Still, New South Wales officials are concerned after an 18-year-old Sydney man tested positive after traveling to outback areas including Broken Hill for a camping trip. Testing clinics are being set up in the remote towns he visited.
To date, the Australian government has banned citizens from leaving the country unless they receive an exemption, which can include travel for business, as part of the coronavirus fight or on compassionate grounds.