In a move to keep up with demand and lower fares, national carrier Qantas (ASX: QAN) has announced a major boost to its international network, with an estimated one million extra seats to become available from late October.
Announced today, extra services to New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles will be made available from Sydney and Melbourne, as well as two new international routes from Brisbane.
Other new offerings include the first Sydney-Shanghai flights in three years with daily services, a boost in flight numbers from Hong Kong to Sydney and Melbourne, a doubling of flight numbers from Australian cities to Tokyo, and a doubling of Melbourne-Delhi flights over the Australian summer.
The extra capacity will be made possible due to the return of Qantas aircraft to service, new planes joining the fleet and a deal with Finnair to operate two A330s on Qantas routes.
The network changes are anticipated to help Qantas meet its goal of returning to 100 per cent of pre-COVID flying capacity by March 2024. The airline is currently at 84 per cent of its pre-COVID flying levels.
“The rebound in demand for international travel since borders reopened has been incredibly strong and this boost to our network will add hundreds of thousands of seats in time for the busy Australian summer holiday period,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who will be succeeded by Vanessa Hudson in November.
“Qantas has been the most on-time major domestic airline for the past eight months in a row and that improved performance means we can release some of the aircraft we’ve had in reserve. That reflects more parts of the aviation supply chain returning to normal and it’s a huge credit to the hard work of our people across the group.
“While airlines globally are working to restore capacity to meet demand, there is still a mismatch between supply and demand for international flying. But with more of our aircraft back in the air, new 787s joining our fleet and our contract with Finnair, we’ve got more seats for our customers and more opportunity for Qantas crew as we increase our own flying.”
Over the past six months, Qantas has returned five of its international aircraft back into its fleet, some from long-term storage and others that were on standby as operational spares while the industry stabilised.
A new Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrived in May, with another two will be delivered next month. An A380 stored in the desert was reactivated earlier this year and an additional one will also return to service at the end of 2023 following maintenance and modifications to the cabin.
Qantas’ fleet upgrade comes as Sydney Airport saw more than 3 million passengers pass through last month, reflecting an 84 per cent recovery rate compared to pre-pandemic April 2019.
Domestic passenger traffic increased 1.2 per cent year-on-year, with 1.9 million travellers passing through the terminals.
A total of 1.12 million passengers went through the international terminal, which is more than double the number seen last April and an 80 per cent surge on pre-pandemic passenger traffic.
Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said while the domestic aviation recovery remained sluggish due to ongoing high airfares and capacity reductions, the international recovery continues to gain momentum, with a strong surge of passengers from China.
“It’s phenomenal to see the number of Chinese nationals visiting Sydney already more than 50 per cent recovered on pre-pandemic levels, especially considering the border only fully reopened in March,” he said.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Airport saw 2.7 million passengers pass through the airport in April, representing a 20 per cent year-on-year increase.
International passengers surged by 138 per cent to 773,645, while the number of domestic travellers - around 1.9 million – was slightly down on the previous year.
“We would hope that as our domestic airlines take delivery of more aircraft, they will add extra capacity to Melbourne to help moderate the cost of airfares,” Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus said.
“Higher airfares are challenging at a time when the cost of living is putting pressure on many household and small business budgets, and the industry needs to keep that front of mind to ensure Australians can afford to keep connected with the rest of the country."
Brisbane Airport welcomes new routes from Qantas
Brisbane Airport has welcomed the three route announcements from Qantas, two of which are new flight paths that will connect the River City to Wellington, New Zealand and Honiara, Solomon Islands from late October.
The current Brisbane to Tokyo service will also be ramped up from three times per week to daily flights from 26 November and will operate from Narita Airport instead of Haneda Airport.
According to Brisbane Airport, capacity between Brisbane and Tokyo is currently at 43 per cent of pre-COVID levels but will jump to 100 per cent when the services are run daily.
Prior to the pandemic, Japan was the sixth largest source of inbound tourists in Brisbane. It is now ranked thirteenth.
"The Japanese market is very important for Queensland and this expansion by Qantas will not only mean tourists for Brisbane but also the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, with 75 per cent of the state’s international visitors arriving via BNE" Brisbane Airport executive general manager of Aviation Ryan Both said.
"Qantas has shown innovation here with its fleet of E190 aircraft providing an excellent premium product and it’s great to see these jets used on the new services from BNE."
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