Qantas (ASX: QAN) and its subsidiary Jetstar will soon run 300 more return flights per week in response to the easing of travel restrictions in many parts of the country.
The uptick over the rest of June applies to domestic travel only, with capacity set to increase from five per cent of pre-coronavirus levels to 15 per cent by the end of the month.
Additional flights will likely operate during July depending on travel demand and the further relaxation of state borders. By the end of next month the group expects it could be at 40 per cent of pre-crisis capacity.
The move follows an announcement the Queensland Government would be supporting Alliance Airlines - partly owned by Qantas - to run four weekly return flights from Brisbane to the Whitsundays.
Details of the additional flights include:
- More services on capital city routes particularly Melbourne-Sydney and a number of routes to-and-from Canberra;
- Increased intra-state flights for Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. Broome, Cairns and Rockhampton to see a significant boost in weekly flights;
- Flights will resume on eight routes not currently being operated; and
- Qantas to commence flights from Sydney to Byron Bay (Ballina), after the route launch was postponed due to the Coronavirus.
Click here for the full list of the increased network.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce (pictured) says there has been a lot of pent-up demand for air travel, and the company is already seeing a big increase in customers booking and planning flights in the weeks and months ahead.
"We can quickly ramp up flying in time for the July school holidays if border restrictions have eased more by then," he says.
"Normally, we plan our capacity months in advance, but in the current climate we need to be flexible to respond to changing restrictions and demand levels.
"The one million people who work in tourism around Australia have been really hurting over the past few months. These additional flights are an important first step to help get more people out into communities that rely on tourism and bring a much-needed boost to local businesses."
The executive also explains parts of the company's Fly Well program, which includes optional masks and travellers will still be able to sit side-by-side as before.
"Customers will notice a number of differences when they fly, such as masks and sanitising wipes, and we'll be sending out information before their flight so they know exactly what to expect and have some extra peace of mind," he says.
"Importantly, the Australian Government's medical experts have said the risk of contracting Coronavirus on an aircraft is low."
However, close contact is considered one of the key ways the virus is spread.
Close contact is generally defined as either 15 minutes of face-to-face contact with an infected person, or sharing a closed space that is not well-ventilated with an infected person for a total of more than two hours.
When Qantas released its Fly Well program, the group's medical director Ian Hosegood gave his explanation as to why the risk of catching coronavirus on an aircraft is extremely low.
"That's due to a combination of factors, including the cabin air filtration system, the fact people don't sit face-to-face and the high backs of aircraft seats acting as a physical barrier," Dr Hosegood says.
"As far as the virus goes, an aircraft cabin is a very different environment to other forms of public transport."Social distancing on an aircraft isn't practical the way it is on the ground, and given the low transmission risk on board, we don't believe it's necessary in order to be safe. The extra measures we're putting place will reduce the risk even further."
Updated at 11:48am AEST on 4 June 2020.
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