Qantas Airways (ASX: QAN) is gearing up to spread its wings much earlier than planned with the company announcing plans to reinstate 11,000 staff stood down by the pandemic in early December, dusting off its fleet of A380s sitting in the Californian desert to have them flying by April.
The company is also planning to bring the remaining five of 11 Jetstar Boeing 787-8s out of storage in Alice Springs in the next few months in preparation for a resumption of international travel into Australia from November 1. The decision has been bolstered by NSW removing quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international passengers disembarking from flights in the state.
The reawakening of the massive Qantas fleet has been buoyed by the company's plans to resume flights from Sydney into popular pre-COVID destinations Singapore, Bangkok, Phuket, Johannesburg and Fiji – all of which are resuming ahead of schedule.
Flights to Honolulu, Vancouver, Tokyo and New Zealand are scheduled to resume from mid-December with other destinations planned to in the new year.
Qantas also has announced a new direct route from Sydney to Delhi, the group’s first commercial flights to the country in almost a decade.
The announcement comes as Australia reaches a 70.8 per cent double-vaccination rate across the eligible population as all passengers aged 12 years and older on Qantas and Jetstar international flights will have to be fully vaccinated for boarding.
“Australians rolling up their sleeves means our planes and our people are getting back to work much earlier than we expected,” says Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
“This is the best news we’ve had in almost two years, and it will make a massive difference to thousands of our people who finally get to fly again."
Joyce says he knows Australians are keen to get overseas to see friends and family or have a long awaited holiday.
“So bringing forward the restart of flights to these popular international destinations will give customers even more options to travel this summer," he says.
“We’ve said for months that the key factor in ramping up international flying would be the quarantine requirement. The decision by the NSW Government to join many cities from around the world by removing quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers means we’re able to add these flights from Sydney much earlier than we would have otherwise.
“We hope that as vaccination rates in other states and territories increase, we’ll be able to restart more international flights out of their capital cities. In the meantime, Sydney is our gateway to the rest of the world.”
The move is good news for Qantas staff who have been stood down since the start of the pandemic. Qantas is expecting 22,000 employees to be on deck in December, which wasn’t expected to occur until June next year.
In August, Qantas announced that five A380s would be back in the air by July next year, servicing London and Los Angeles. Today’s announcement brings the expected resumption of flights to Los Angeles forward by three months to April next year.
Qantas says discussions with Boeing could also see an earlier-than-expected delivery of three new 787 Dreamliners, which have been in storage for most of the pandemic.
The number of domestic flights planned by Qantas and Jetstar is also set to rise dramatically, with the lucrative Sydney to Melbourne route to be serviced by up to 18 return flights a day initially and up to 37 by Christmas. This is still well down on the 58 pre-COVID and compares with just one flight per day at the height of the pandemic.
More domestic flights will be added to the schedule, pending an easing of travel restrictions by other states.
Joyce says demand for international travel is outstripping domestic travel, driven by the roadmap to travel currently in place.
“In recent weeks, sales on international flights to and from Sydney have outstripped sales on domestic flights, which shows how important certainty is to people when making travel plans,” says Joyce.
“While these flights will initially be for Australians and their families, we expect tourists from Singapore, South Africa and India to take advantage of these flights once borders reopen to international visitors, which is great news for the industry.
“Given the strong ties between Australia and India, flights between Sydney and Delhi have been on our radar for some time, and we think there will be strong demand from family and friends wanting to reconnect once borders open.
“Our customers and crew love flying on our flagship A380s, so news that they are will be back flying to Los Angeles again from April next year will be very welcome.
“The Federal Government’s support to ensure our aircraft and people are ready to resume once borders reopen has been critical.”
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