The return of domestic aviation in Australia received its biggest boost since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with the news Qantas and Jetstar are planning to add 300 more return flights per week by the end of June.
The business also announced it could increase capacity “up to 40 per cent” by the end of July depending on demand and the lifting of state border restrictions.
Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said, “We know there is a lot of pent up demand for air travel and we are already seeing a big increase in customers booking and planning flights in the weeks and months ahead.”
Currently, Qantas and Jetstar are operating just 5 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity but the June increase will shift that up to 15 per cent.
Over the coming months, Qantas plans to:
- Increase services on capital city routes, particularly Melbourne-Sydney and a number of routes to-and-from Canberra;
- Increase intra-state flights for Western Australia, Queensland, NSW and South Australia. Broome, Cairns and Rockhampton to see a significant boost in weekly flights;
- Resume eight routes not currently being operated; and
- Commence flights from Sydney to Byron Bay (Ballina).
“We can quickly ramp up flying in time for the July school holidays if border restrictions have eased more by then,” said Joyce. “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.”
Joyce said that both Qantas and Jetstar would be standing up stood-down employees and that the added flights would “get more people out into communities that rely on tourism and bring a much-needed boost to local businesses”.
Before today’s announcement, much of Australia’s domestic network was heavily reliant on a $165 million government subsidy, announced in mid-April, which increased Qantas Group passenger flights from 105 to 164 per week.
However, these were primarily intended as a way for repatriated passengers to return back to their home state after completing 14-day hotel quarantine.
It comes after Canberra Airport declared on Monday it was open for passengers to fly “without restrictions” to and from Sydney and Melbourne.
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Currently, interstate travel in Australia is complicated by different rules between states, territories and the federal government.
This week, for instance, both Queensland and WA reiterated that they have no imminent plans to open their borders, despite repeated criticism from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Queensland residents returning are also subject to a 14-day quarantine if they’ve travelled from what it terms COVID-19 hotspots, which currently include NSW’s Central Coast and the Northern Beaches.
NSW, Victoria and the ACT never technically closed their borders, however, travel was effectively ruled out because people could only leave their homes for an essential reason such as to buy food, exercise or provide medical help.
When the national cabinet agreed on a three-step roadmap for reopening the country, interstate travel was tentatively pencilled in for a nationwide return in July.
This plan was thrown into doubt by repeated declarations from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that her borders could remain closed until September, leading to a row between states and the federal government.
It culminated in the Prime Minister appearing on a number of breakfast shows last week and repeatedly declaring that border closures were never “the medical advice”, or agreed by the national cabinet.
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